Friday, May 8, 2015

Dive In

     One day when I was probably ten or eleven, I saw a photo of me as a toddler.  In it, my shoulder and chest are wrapped up in gauze and medical tape.  I asked my mom what was going on in the picture.  She told me that one morning, when I was around three years old, I was with her in the kitchen.  She poured a cup of coffee, and stepped away from the counter for just a second.  That was enough time for me to reach up and conduct a very brief investigation into my mother's morning routine, which resulted in me pouring the hot cup o' joe all over myself.  I had first and second degree burns on my arm and chest, hence the mummy-like appearance in a few childhood photos.  I am sure this was a very painful and frightening event for little Evin, so I am grateful that a few years later, I had no idea it had ever happened.  Three weeks later, I was all better; neither my body nor mind was scarred by the incident.

     In addition to regretting that the whole thing ever happened, my mom had one other thing she wished she'd done differently:  she was upset at herself for not re-enrolling me in the swim lessons I had started the week before the coffee incident.  At the time, I'd never thought much about the fact that I couldn't swim.  Swimming didn't matter to me much-- at CF camp, we had to take a swim test, and I just wanted to do well enough to be allowed on the giant foam rafts where we would play gladiator type games.  With some effort, I always made it from one dock to the other, though it was never pretty and I was never granted privileges to go to the deeper part of the lake.  When school gym class focused on swimming for a few weeks each year starting in middle school, I used a paddle board in the deep end and practiced the strokes they taught us in the shallow end.  I didn't feel like having CF affected me in most physical activities, but I did have a hard time getting my breathing synchronized with my strokes, and an unreasonable fear of swallowing water and choking.  On some level, I bought into the idea that my lungs weren't great, and a person needs healthy lungs to be safe and successful in the water.  If anything, my inability to swim was due to my mind, not my body.

     It wasn't until high school that I had a realization.  The coffee incident was one of those childhood moments that, though unrecognized at the time, had a potentially significant impact on my life.  In theory, had I learned to swim when I was very young,  I could have joined the high school swim team as a freshman.  This would have linked me to a team and social group for, perhaps, the duration of high school.  How I spent my free time, who I hung out with, maybe even who I dated could have been very different had I not experimented with java and its effects on my delicate skin.

     There is no telling what would have changed in my life had this minor event never happened.  But one thing is for sure-- now that summer is approaching and I have lungs that are as functional as any other person's, it's time I became comfortable in both ends of the pool.  And my son (who loves being in the water almost as much as did his Grandpa Fealko, a Navy vet who grew up two blocks from a gorgeous beach), finally has a dad who is physically and mentally ready to dive in with him.

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