Last week my beau and I spent the week in Florida. I swam every day at the condo pool, my creaky joints soon cutting through the water like an old pro. I had forgotten how much I loved the water and was immediately struck by the memory of how I learned to swim at age 7.
It was Grade 2 and I had entered a water safety poster contest sponsored by the Red Cross. Lucky for me, I won for my age group and the prize was a season’s pass to the pool at Harrison Park, the main park in my hometown of Owen Sound.
This was exciting for me since my family didn’t go camping or take part in many activities together (but that’s another story) so going to the pool became my fun for the summer. My older sister Lori took me since I was too young to venture across town on my own and we spent many hours together as she taught me how to swim. I remember her hands gently holding me up in the water as I learned to float and how she taught me to hold my breath when I plunged underwater. She even saved me once when I was literally in over my head.
This was a special time for us, before personality conflicts and family problems put us at odds against each other. My memories of the pool are especially poignant these days as Lori battles mental illness and is in hospital. She can no longer care for herself and will be moving into a nursing home as soon as a spot becomes available.
The past month has been very difficult as I have watched her turn into a different person, someone I don’t understand but feel immense compassion for. We have not been close for decades but circumstances have brought us together once again, this time with me looking out for her. As we work our way through this traumatic time, I hope I can be as gentle with my sister as she was once with me.