50/50: Being light in the water a break from mom’s burdens
I can still see her floating in the pool, her knees bent, shins above the water, her hands making figure eights just below the surface, her head back, a smile on her face.
My mother was not always a large woman. When she married Dad in 1945, she was 5’11” and weighed 118 pounds. I wore her wedding gown for my own wedding in 1982, but it had to be let out an inch, something Mom let everyone at the reception know (and I was 30 pounds lighter than I am now).
She graduated top of her class at Wellesley and promptly married Dad, a handsome West Pointer. They had their five children and Mom stayed home. I remember her doing a lot of laundry and being tired all the time. I think she was happy with the choices she made, but I don’t know for sure.
She gained 10 pounds with the birth of each child, so by the time I came along in 1960, she was 50 pounds overweight.
Over the years, she had belonged to most every weight-loss group available – OA, TOPS, I think there was even a church support group for a while. But for some reason she was never able to shed that excess weight that centered around her stomach especially.
So to be so light in the water must’ve felt so good to her – a relief, almost, not to have to carry around the extra burden for those brief hours.
I walk to the end of the dock, kneel down and test the water. It’s surprisingly warm for this time of year. I sit on the edge and slowly lower myself into the waist-high water. I’m not much of a fan of water. I think it’s because I’m a Leo and cats aren’t known to like getting wet. But today is a beautiful day, and I want to cross another item off my summer bucket list – swim in the lake.
I slowly lower myself into the water until I am kneeling. Well, I’m lightly kneeling, as we haven’t pulled all of the seaweed yet, and I feel myself relax into the bouncy rhythm of the lake as the waves gently lap against my chest.
I lean back and kick my feet up, like Mom used to do, but I can’t float. My bottom keeps sinking (no jokes please). I must have such heavy muscles after all my working out, I think, and push myself off the sandy bottom, knees up, to try again. This time I circle my hands really fast. Maybe I just need to get more lift. But no, now my bottom AND my legs sink swiftly below the surface, and no amount of furious hand-circling will keep me afloat.
I let my legs drift slowly down to the sandy bottom. I am oddly sad, wanting to feel weightless like my mother. I want to be able to float for hours, relaxed and happy, not encumbered or limited by my body. I want to be like her, as if somehow me mimicking her water relaxation time will link us together in time, and maybe help me navigate through my days without her.
I think I may have to work on floating, and just be content with my memories of Mom in our pool, light on her feet, unburdened for a little while.