Circa 1998.




Eric is four. Relentless. “Come on Dad. It’s time to go swimming.” Pulling on my hand. “Come on Dad. Dad, come on!”

The marble floor in the bathroom is cool and smooth on our bare feet. I watch him struggle tugging on his suit. His little white bottom contrasting against his milk chocolate tan lines. He lets out a whimper in frustration as he can’t pull on his swim shirt.

We step outside.

We had lived in Miami for four years. The sweltering summer heat was still a shock. Swallowing up oxygen. Mixing with the heavy pool chlorine…filling nostrils and lungs.

10am. 91F. And there is still August to go.

Home. Pool. Lush tropical vegetation. Fence. Mango trees flush with plump fruit camouflaging the neighbor’s house. All tight on 1/8 of an acre.

No time is wasted. In a single motion his eye goggles are on and he vaults himself into the pool.

I’m watching from deck chair. At four, he can traverse the entire length of the pool and a 1/4 way back — all underwater. He pops his head up looking for affirmation. Dad isn’t cheap with hand-outs. I tell him to do it without the boost from a dive.

He’s blessed with a broad back. Large flipper feet. A strong kick. At four, he could execute a flip turn. Freestyle and butterfly strokes. And lungs. Oh, what lungs. Ability to hold tanks of oxygen.

Dad sees potential. A college scholarship. He presses (pushes) Mom to get him to lessons. He’s enrolled.

First week in. He hates the work. He hates the lessons. He’s not having any fun. He wants to quit. Yet, there’s no quitting in the Kanigan household. Dad wants to push him to advanced lessons. Dad demands it. There are arguments. Dad is over ruled. Years later, Dad is still surprised of his acquiescence. (You let it go! You did the right thing. Give yourself some credit. Look how he’s turned out.)

Movie rolls forward 16 years. Mom, Rachel and Dad are sitting poolside at the hotel. Eric, a college sophomore, is still in the pool. 30 minutes? Could it be 45 minutes? Not doing laps. Not diving off the board. Occasionally we see his head break the water, a porpoise. What does he do down there? What is he thinking?

My boy. My son. A man now. Still finding joy and peace in water. His Dad looks on. His chest swells with pride. And when this burns off, he ponders. Is that more than a touch of envy I feel?

So I’ve aged. The stars are still
too high and far too sweet.
I’ve bloodied my knuckles trying
to climb up to them, fractious reminders.

Turn them out. Keep them safe
in a velvet-lined box.

—Melanie Rehak, from “Self-Portrait as the Liberal Arts”

Credits: Image – Thank you c1tylight5 via Mme Scherzo.  Melanie Rehak quote from iamvickiroberts.

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  1. Wonderful memories….


  2. Awe and a little envy…your little porpoise exploring the phenomenal limits of his body (limits that still seem limitless). An argument that was worth losing – apparently the child never stopped taking lessons – just not the ones you had in mind. What a boy. What a man. What a dad.


  3. We each need to find out own path, in our own time, and you allowed Eric to do this. What a gift you gave him, David. You allowed him to embrace something he loved and was proficient at, rather than making it a “job” or skill set he was required to perfect. Wise man, awesome dad….


  4. I adore these explorations of your Dad-hood. You’re everything my dad was not, and so I marvel at your love and pride. They are alien to me, and magical. And I can’t help but wonder at your children and the legacy you’ve give them, the strength inherent in their natures because of you. Because of a dad who is available.


  5. A great piece…and true. I am watching my boys and thinking of what I was doing at twenty something. Whatever it was the sixty something body does not want to try it again!


  6. another beautiful, poignant story where the love wraps you like a blanket…thank you, david!


  7. Wow…the words of Kanigan San, again. Sometimes, when I read your words, they take me to places in my own heart, memories in my own head…thoughts of the greatest accomplishment in my life…raising my children. Your children are blessed to have you as their father. There is so much tenderness, so much feeling that lives in your soul. And the quote at the end of your story is simply perfect. Thank you David.


  8. He’s so lucky to love the water and be comfortable in it.


  9. Sweet memories, the balance one has to keep while parenting.


  10. Love the ‘flexible fencing’ analogy – perfect. I felt like I was there – what a beautiful description of such important memories and lessons. I take these with me, every time you share, as I bring up my own boy…


  11. It’s wonderful to see them grow into the adults we dreamed they would become. Lovely post, David. 🙂


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