Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Swimming Towards The Light

Just before I left our island home to come back to California, my granddaughter Iris, who has a fierce devotion to living things, found an injured frog at the quarry where we swim.  She was on the far side of the quarry, and storm clouds were rolling in.

“Grandpa”, she yelled, “I need you.  This frog is hurt and I can’t swim across with him in my hands.”  

So I dove in and I swam with all my might.  Iris jumped on my back with injured frog in hand and we swam across the quarry as hard as we could.  I could feel my own limbs burning against the water, and her own little heart racing with passion and purpose as she held my neck with one hand and a wounded frog with the other. 

When we reached the other side, rain drops started to fall and everyone clapped.  Either for our passion, the drama or perhaps just for the frog.  The frog found a safe haven and we dried off and I thought of my Dad who had just died, of any of us who go through the storms of life with passion and resolve.  We can do it.  

We were made to do it.

We dream of how the other could change, or perhaps how we might change, but at the end of our lives it won’t matter how many titles we held, how much money we had, what accomplishments we saw.  What will matter is that we went through the storms with only a glimmer of light that tells us to hang on. Just keep swimming. 

With Grace and Grit, John

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Going Through the Storm

We were on our way back East, Frances and I and Madeline and our blind pug, enjoying a glorious day in Yellowstone.  Driving along the glacier lake, I was seized with a sudden urge to go swimming.  “Pull the car over” I asked Frances.  “Where?” she said.  “Anywhere… by the shore.  I… I need to go swimming.”  So she did, a little off the road.  I got down to my skivvies and jumped in the icy cold water.  I thought my heart would stop.  I came crashing to the surface and when my breath came back I yelled as loud as I could “YES!”.  God that water was cold!  I climbed out grabbed my clothes, dressed and we were on our way again.  “Odd decision” my lovely wife said to me.  “Yes” I agreed, “odd”.  Not sure why I felt so compelled to do that.

About an hour later as we neared the end of the lake, my cell phone buzzed,  we had been out of range, it was a message from my brother.: “Call me now”.  We pulled over along the shore.  I had just enough of a signal to get through.  “Dad had a heart attack about an hour ago.  While swimming in the pond.  He’s in a coma.  I need you here.  Now.”  I told him I was on my way.  I would find an airport and fly to home.  As we came out of Yellowstone down the Eastern side of the Rockies into the rolling prairies of Wyoming, I was on the phone for the next hour, finally finding a flight out of Billings, MT two hours to the north that would connect me to the Twin Cities and onto New England.  As we raced through the open prairie, my thoughts raced through a thousand memories, many of them having to do with water.  My father and I share a great love for water, he for the ponds and rivers of New England, me for the mighty oceans we spend our lives near. 

Just then, as we were driving, a storm came upon us.  Not one of those placid storms but a real drencher.  A gully washer as they say.  It rained buckets. Lighting and thunder.  “Should we pull over?” asked Frances.  “No”,  I said, “we have to through it.”  Through the storm, with determination and passion.  I was so glad she and Madeline were with me and with such calm as the storm in my heart raged as much as the skies around us. 

I caught my plane in Billings, and in Minneapolis and then to Hartford.  As I turned on my phone taxing to the gate, there was a message from my brother.  My dad died while I was in the air, above the storm clouds.  He simply slipped away.

As I drove from the airport to the hospital in Northampton, MA I suddenly realized what had happened.  I dove into that glacial lake in Yellowstone at the precise moment that he had a heart attack swimming in pond in Mass.  Our hearts had passed through the storm.  His heart was all done now after 83 rich years.  Mine still beating through the many more storms before me.

With Grace and Grit, John