Sink or Swim

Bill and I took our grand kids, Amber and Jack, to the children’s pool on a 110-plus Sunday in August.  They enjoy it because there’s a deep end, which is contained within the small angle of the L-shaped pool and the kids were allowed to jump and dive from the edge.  No running, no skipping, no rough-housing, no slide, no noodles, but when we signed in the receptionist gave us a couple of diving rings so the kids could swim to the bottom of the 9 foot depth and retrieve them.  This is a great plan unless your 6-year old grandson can’t get to the bottom because he bobs up like a life preserver whenever he attempts to go more than 12 inches below the surface.  And that’s when Jack met Craig.

Craig was two or three years older than Jack, he was refreshingly polite, and he never, ever stopped talking.  As he paddled across the deep end of the pool towards us he was talking, he continued chattering as he hung off the ladder, went up the ladder, and proceeded to do a cannonball back into the pool.

“I think this type of dive was invented in Hawaii,” he babbled, preparing to jump into the water.  “That’s because I saw these divers going off cliffs when I was a little kid and I went there with my mom and…”  At this point he shut up as he made direct contact with the water and disappeared momentarily.  I can only assume that he stopped talking once his head went under the water.  Or not.  Maybe he continued blathering away while he was submerged because his one-man dialogue seemed to pick up in mid-sentence as soon as he surfaced.

“And so, if you just tuck your legs in, it’s a proven scientific fact, it’ll make a much more impressive splash,”  Craig continued his litany, switching from
diving techniques to favorite vacation spots.  “Although,” he said, paddling over to Bill, who was sitting on the pool’s edge, and reaching for his foot from which to hang, “I found Florida to be more entertaining than Hawaii.  But then again, California’s pretty exciting.  There’s lots to do there, even if you’re on a budget, which my mom and dad never are.  I also like…”

Hanging from the ladder, which was right next to Bill, Jack looked from me to his grandpa and back again before finally addressing Craig for the first time since he invaded our space.  “Hey dude, you can do that somewhere else.”

Un-phased, Craig looked at Jack and said “You know, if you want to learn how to touch bottom I can teach you.  I learned how when I was a lot younger than you.  In fact I learned how to do that before I could even swim, which I learned how to do when I was really little, like maybe 3 or 4.”

I looked at Jack and said “I think he wants to be friends, Jack.  Maybe you should ask him his name.”

“Hey dude,” Jack said, wedging himself between his grandpa’s foot and Craig.  “what’s your name?”

“Craig,” he answered.  “I’m from Minnesota and we’re visiting my grandma.  That’s my mom and dad over there,” he said, pointing at a couple on the far side of the pool.  When we all turned our heads and looked in their direction, I think they actually tried to duck under water.  Maybe they were hoping we’d continue to entertain their chatty son so they’d catch a little break.  Or maybe they were making bets on how long it would take until Craig drove us screaming from the pool.  Or maybe they just enjoyed blowing bubbles at each other under the cool, calm surface of the pool.  It didn’t matter, because they made no attempt to corral him down to their end of the pool and Craig just kept on talking.

As I tread water in the corner of the deep end, Jack paddled up to me and put his hands on my shoulders.  He looked at me with his big brown eyes and whispered “Nana, we’ve gotta get the heck out of here.  He’s driving me crazy.”

“Yeah,” chimed in Amber.  “He won’t shut up.”

“Well, OK,” I said, looking at Bill, who nodded his agreement.  “If you’re both ready to go, we can make our escape.”

“Cool,” said Jack.  “Just give me a minute.”

He turned to Craig and interrupted his diatribe on his soccer skills.  “Hey, dude, how long can you stay under water?” asked Jack.

“Oh, quite awhile,” said Craig.  “Maybe two or three minutes.  My record is four, but that was in salt water where you can stay under longer.”

“OK then,” Jack countered.  “Race!”  And under he went.

“Oh, well then, just let me take a deep breath.  You know,” he continued, in between deep inhalations.  “I won’t go as long because I haven’t had a chance to really get ready.”  And with that he held his nose and popped below the surface.

As soon as he did, Jack shot up like a torpedo exiting a submarine, grabbed the ladder and scurried onto the cool decking where we were gathered with our beach bags and towels like refugees escaping a tyrannical government.

“Run!” Jack yelled.

“No running,” Bill and I said together.

“Then walk really, really fast!” Amber shouted, heading toward the exit.

As we made our escape, I glanced across the water at Craig’s mother and father.  She gave me a feeble wave and his dad just shrugged.  In the distance, we could hear splashing and Craig shouting “A new record!  That was at least five min… hey, where’d you guys go?”


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