Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Swim Coach and the Silent Waltz

"Hello, er yes," I said rather nervously over the telephone, "I am looking for some swimming lessons for my son this summer."

"Okayyyy," said Beth, our local swim coach, who owns a pool and for many years has taught all of the neighborhood children how to swim.

I closed my eyes and waited for the next inevitable question.

"How old is your son?"

"Well, um, er..." I replied uncomfortably.

How do I do this? I wondered to myself. How do I explain why it took so long for me to consider swimming lessons for Nicholas? How do I explain about Nicholas? How do I tell her about his diagnosis? But more importantly, will she be willing to teach him how to swim?

"He, um, has very low muscle tone and struggles with issues related to coordination." My pathetic attempt to try to educate her on some of Nick's challenges.

"Okayyyy, how old is he?" she asks again patiently.

"He's ten," I replied and felt my cheeks start to redden.

"No problem, she said, We will probably need to place him in a class with younger children."

Oh no, I thought to myself, she does not understand. Inside my head, I pictured a school of flopping, screaming children splashing her pool into a seething whirlpool of doom and destruction. I could see the slow moving Nicholas overcome by a monstrous wave of blackened pool water.

"Perhaps this isn't going to work," I answered, frustrated with my inability to explain what Nicholas needed.

"I have taught several children diagnosed with special needs to swim," she replied trying to assure me she had done this before.

I started to breathe a little easier.

How many children will be in the class?" I asked.

"About 6 or 7, but I would need to take a look at him in the water first." she answered.

More images of a floundering Nicholas gulping mouthfuls of chlorinated water.

"I don't know, I said, I am not sure this would be a suitable class for Nicholas."

Again my fear and inability to communicate.

"Once I see him in the water, I will have a better idea of what he needs." she reassured.

"Oh," I said feeling a little better but still picturing Nicholas and Beth floating out of the pool on a giant kid-made tsunami.

"Why don't you just bring him by on Monday," she said. I could sense she was getting frustrated with me.

I hung up the phone and questioned the value of my degree in communications.

As the days passed, Nicholas looked forward to his first swimming lesson. We all tried to prepare him for the arrival of the big day.

"Nicholas, you're going to love swimming in the pool, it's so much fun," Weston said anxious to reassure his younger brother.

"I am?" Nicholas asked.

"You are!" Weston answered.

"Beth is soooo nice!" I told him enthusiastically.

"She is?" Nicholas asked.

"She is!" I answered.

Monday finally arrived and Nicholas awoke. He donned an old pair of Weston's "surfer dude" swim trunks, anxious to begin his new adventure.

We arrived at Beth's pool.

A mass of tiny, wet children was exiting the churning pool, laughing and shivering. What was I thinking? I thought to myself as they clamored around me and Nicholas looking for their towels. It wasn't long before each chilly child found their mother and headed home. The pool and surrounding area became quiet, the water stilled. A tanned, gray haired woman walked up to Nicholas and extended her hand.

"Are you ready Nicholas?" she asked.

"I am!" he replied enthusiastically.

She held his hand and led him to the edge of the pool.

They did not speak.

Within minutes, Beth had the sensory-sensitive Nicholas in the pool and smiling. I sat stunned on the side of the pool. I watched as these two strangers silently connected. They glided through the water in an effortless motion of trust and mutual respect.

Beth pulled Nicholas slowly around the pool. He let her gently guide his body.

"Ok, now try to put your legs behind you," she instructed softly, and the compliant Nicholas allowed his body to float. They swirled silently together through the water from one side of the pool to the other, softly, gently, quietly. Nicholas bonded easily with this patient woman. There were no dangerous waves or whirlpools. There was no fear or anxiousness, no difficulties communicating; submerged in the clear, tranquil water of the pool, they were dancing. As I watched their graceful movements together, I could almost hear the music.

This calm, silent scene was a sharp contrast to the loud, nervous noise inside my head. My needless worry seemed silly to me now and I wondered if perhaps the word "disabled" was a more accurate description of me. I was the one who was awkward and afraid. I was the one who had trouble trusting.

I was the one who couldn't dance.

It is my son, not me, who hears this inner music, a song that connects him silently and fluidly to others in this world who also vibrate to that beautiful sound.

As I watched my son dance to this silent music, I realized I have a lot to learn.

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Lisa Peters writes about family life at her blog www.onalifelessperfect.blogspot.com. Please feel free to come visit and share our adventures. Thank you for reading.

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