Yes, I was lifeguarding, which I suppose sounds weird — to be pushing 60 and standing on deck with a rescue tube — but it was a fun distraction from the weightier things in my life.
Plus pools are one of my happy places. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved swimming.
So I lifeguarded from 5:15 AM to 7:15 AM.
And I loved it.
Friday was my last day on that shift. It was a little bittersweet.
“Was this your choice?” one of the early morning crowd asked when I told her.
Yes, it was. Sometimes it’s important to review priorities.
But I had unfinished business — some names I hadn’t yet learned.
When I lifeguarded, I would scan the pool and repeat the names of the swimmers to myself — Bonnie, Karen, Louise, Jean, MaryAnn, Maureen, Scott, Mike, and so on.
One woman came every Monday, Wednesday, Friday — and I could tell you a lot of things about her, but I couldn’t tell you her name.
She was elderly.
She walked with a limp.
She wore a unique gold necklace that I asked her about once. It was a track medal that her father had won in 1916 (or something like that) and she had it made into a necklace.
She had limited range of motion on one side.
She always walked down the steps in lane 1 and then ducked under lane lines until she reached lane 8. It was like a game of Frogger the way she crossed lanes without interfering with other swimmers.
She swam a modified elementary backstroke.
She always smiled and said good morning as she backstroked past the lifeguard stand.
One morning a couple of weeks ago I saw her stop to speak with another swimmer. I knew the other person well enough to ask her the name of the woman I didn’t know.
She told me — and it was a name I immediately recognized but couldn’t place.
I asked my husband. He’s got a great memory when it comes to people.
“Oh, I know her! She was a pediatric neurologist,” he said.
Ah — my dream job. When I didn’t think I’d be able to have children, I wanted to be a neurologist. Specifically, a pediatric neurologist.
So, back in the day, my ears had perked up when I heard that the hospital had hired a woman pediatric neurologist.
I spoke with her last week.
“You know, you had my dream job,” I told her. “I used to want to be a pediatric neurologist, but instead I had a family.”
“And I always wanted children,” she said to me.
I was so humbled.
I’ve been haunted by her words and mine.
I would never trade any of my children to be a pediatric neurologist. As it is, my life is rich and full.
I imagine her patients, too, are grateful for the path her life took.
Life has a way of working out.
I love being a mom —
I’ve had my dream job all along.