High Dive in the Deep End by Susan Braden, August 30, 2019
This is the last week of summer, Labor Day weekend, and I’m reminiscing about my younger days at the pool. Top 40 hits buzzing from the loudspeakers with “Marco…Polo…” shouted over noisy laughter. All this noise would soften to a blur as I would hold my nose and try to sit on the bottom of the pool before I had to pop up to the surface to breathe. Not able to wear my contacts or glasses, my pool time was a visual blur, as well. The shallow end was comfortable for me, knowing if I stood up, I could breathe and have control. I was a terrible swimmer – still am.
During that awkward summer between 5th and 6th grade, 1975, my friends convinced me to go to the Deep End and jump off the low diving board. I managed to complete a few successful hops off the low board and dog-paddled quickly to the steps out. I then run-walked back over to the warmer, shallow side of the pool. It was scary, but do-able.
I remember a few times I found the courage to try the High Dive. I stood in the impatient, long line. When it was my turn, I walked the gang-plank to the end, toes gripping the end of the board. I couldn’t see the bottom of the pool. I knew if I jumped in I’d be deeply submerged in the cold, dark blue water. I turned around, climbed back down the stairs saying, “Sorry, my stomach hurts”, and walked quickly to the girls’ locker room to hide out for a while.
One day, that same summer when there wasn’t a long line at the High Dive, I gathered all the courage I could, climbed up the ladder, and walked to the end of the bouncy plank. I paused a second to clamp my nose with my right hand, extend my left arm toward heaven, and I took a big step off the High Dive!
SUCCESS – with a capital SUCK!
Thank goodness I was still holding my nose as I surfaced. My favorite swimsuit (a bright “Pepto Bismol” pink 2-piece suit) ended up in places it should have never been – the bottom as a thong and the top as a necklace!
Picture a flailing, drowning flamingo… frightened; no control; engulfed in a helpless, muffled, fuzzy new world. Even the safety of modesty was ripped away.
Ahhh, The Summer of 1975.
Fast-forward 40 years to the Spring of 2015.
“We’re going to do a biopsy now. It IS Cancer.”
You take a big breath, reach up to Heaven and step off the High Dive. The last clear word you hear is Cancer.
“We’re admitting you to a room overnight for observation.”
Pushed in a wheelchair, the fuzzy word on the wall ahead of you becomes larger and clearer as you see the name of your new world on a sign – “ONCOLOGY”
After you return home, your Family Doctor calls. “How do you spell that?”, you ask. There’s a long pause at the end of the High Dive, as if he’s seeing and spelling this word for the first time in his life.
“C – H – O – L – A – N – G – I – O – C – A – R – C – I – N – O – M – A”
At this point, we all realize we’re in the Deep End together. We’re going to dog-paddle our way over to the ladder, pull ourselves up and re-emerge.
Changed. Clumsily victorious. Ready to take the next plunge.
One big, bright spot in this new Deep End?
I look marginally better in a hospital gown than I did as a flailing, drowning flamingo!
Enjoy not only this upcoming Labor Day weekend, but EVERY day you have!
(And be careful in those 2-piece swimsuits!)