Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Swimming Pool

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Swimming Pool

It is just 8:00 am as I settle myself back into a sitting position in the bed where I peacefully slept the night before, pull my laptop onto my lap and engage the day.  As my Firefox browser comes to life, I put to use the benefits as I start Pandora Radio to accompany my surf habits as Facebook comes into focus.   Nothing from last night was added to my news feed and no one left me any messages so I turned my head and looked outside through my doors as a song on Pandora captured my attention. “ Fields of Gold” by Sting...  This was the morning of 16 April 2011 as I sat being lazy on a beautiful cool crisp Saturday spring morning... Could not help but think, what could possibly happen or just what could I encounter that would hamper anything on this beautiful day?  The stimulating song of my favorite bird competes with Pandora through my ear buds just outside of my French doors and seems to be beckoning my presence in his world...  Yet this morning I stop my restraint and post my first thoughts to my Facebook friends:
Lazy Saturday... I'm torn between vegging out or engaging my blog... Pandora is in my head this morning and I think I am content... My mind is simply drifting peacefully as I listen for a direction. Through my ear buds I hear my mockingbird call from the Ligustrum bushes around my pool... "Yes," I respond, "I know it is still green. Leave me alone."

Cannot help but smile at what I just posted knowing that if my friends and family only knew how lazy I chose to be… My poor swimming pool.   It won’t be long before my green frog buddies take over and add to the nighttime chorus of sounds I love to listen to as darkness pauses most life into a peaceful rest.   I have even been known to grow a few tadpoles before I “nuke” the thing with chlorine and fight with it for a week to bring it under control so we as a family can take advantage of its cooling spirit!  I will eventually choose a day to eradicate the life forms of amphibians and algae and remove from her depths the winter layer of leaves from the surrounding Red Oaks, Long Leaf Pines, Ligustrum and Water Oaks that are decomposing there, but until then, let me tell you about this pool.

It is a 30 x 15 Doughboy Pool encased in a concrete ring with an 8’ deep end.  This pool was well maintained when we purchased the home in 1988 and I have no idea just how old it really is.  I do know that it is on its fourth liner since we moved in.  Replaced it the first year when my Doberman fell in while we were out of town and in his attempts to free himself, simply ripped that liner to shreds with his back feet claws…  Only thing he had to do was go to the ladder, but no, he had to tear stuff up only to get saved by an attentive neighbor who later tried to poison him.    It was just a couple of years later that my oldest daughter was “helping me” vacuum the pool when the vacuum head came off!  You know what she was holding if you have a swimming pool.  Yes… a long hollow aluminum pole with sharp rounded edges so designed as to slip assorted snap and lock swimming pool tools into.   She was so sweet as she started jabbing at the detached vacuum head so as to miraculously reattach it to this sharp rounded hollow pole. Into the soft vinyl liner held firmly in place with my sand based bottom did this pole continue to follow her directions as I peacefully stood beside her scooping leaves off the top of the tempting water...  Know how long it takes for that small hole to get really big when 20,000 gallons of water competes for those small holes?  I survived that, as did my daughter.  Actually I survived, and my wife simply saved our daughter’s life!

I have no idea what happened to the liner that third time.  I just came home one day and found the swimming pool empty with another hole in the liner and that was it.  I left it that way for two, maybe three years until I found the resolve to repair it.
Torn liners were not the only problem we encountered with our pool.  When my kids first assaulted the depths of this rather sturdy structure, it only had two decks that rose to its heights.  The largest deck was located on the side closest to our house and was large enough for a few “little” people to gather on and ease in and out of the water via a ladder designed for that very purpose.  However, to get to the diving board you had to get out of the pool, scurry down steps from the large deck, walk across the grass and then climb up the other ladder to the diving board deck.  Just a reminder here that kids do not care what collects on their feet while walking through the grassy yard.  They climb up, bounce on the spring board and splash in…   Needless to say there is always work to do every time they swim.   Vacuum, vacuum and chlorine.  And that’s just from my six kids!  Add to that the mix of neighborhood kids and you can imagine the fun there!  I am not an ignorant person.  I also know kids lie.  So when the swimming pool started smelling like uric acid, I figured chlorine in bulk form was needed.  Not one ever admitted to peeing in my pool, but it is on its second generation of Ferguson’s and none have died from swimming in this tainted water yet!  So instead of trying to correct the problem of weak bladdered kids, I just set my mind to enlarging the deck so no one would have to walk in the grass to get to the diving board and non-swimming adults could sit and watch kids swim. 

I had a friend that had a friend that could get me anything I wanted!  In this case it was a friend that had a mill that could cut up pine trees in real 2x4 sizes and 2x6 or 8” boards!  Just what I needed!  All the wood I could imagine at a fraction of the cost of treated wood you get at a lumber shop!  The frenzy began…  I built one of the most perfect decks you could imagine complete with stairs and a fence to keep people from falling off.   So proud.  Let me tell you about rough cut pine folks.   It doesn’t last.  My master piece started rotting in less than two years…  It had to go!  My wife said she wanted a three level deck.  I told her she was crazy, that I was NOT going to build a three level deck around that pool because I didn’t know how and she said “Oh yes you do,” so the building began after a short period or pouting and griping about the task at hand!  We now have a three level deck with treated lumber and it’s going on its 12th year…  If I recall correctly it was about 12 years ago I started listening to her suggestions and advice a little more…  Sometimes she makes very good sense…  And no one has fallen through so I guess we did something right.
Now, for anyone who has ever had a swimming pool and very young children, we need to take a short trip into a subject no one ever really wants to talk about and hardly dares to mention.  It is tough to talk about but for a brief moment, let’s just call it the tough part.   My youngest daughter was 2 years old when we moved to Pineville from Monroe, LA.   Many times I would come home and wonder where this child was when I could not immediately locate her.  As I walked through my house calling her, I would move outdoors to see if she might be with the older kids.  There were times I would literally hold my breath as I walked to the pool to look into its depths praying I would not find my worst nightmare there.   With a lot of help from her daddy and a good pair of “floaties”, she finally turned into a fair navigator of the depths, but for three long years or longer, I actually worried myself sick about what if…  Then the grandkids started coming at a faster rate than I remembered my kids growing up!   I needed a plan of action or something to help eliminate my stress, so my strange personality improvised a strategy that might not cause my stress level to push me to levels of unsuspected cardiac infarctions!  I just don't think any of us would be surprised at how quick a kid can pick up on just how dangerous a swimming pool can be when they are “knocked into” a cold pool of water…  Especially when they can’t swim and are caught totally by surprise at their situation!  You save them just in time from “meeting the wizard” and trust me here; from that moment on you can’t get them to go near that pool for the rest of that swimming season and halfway through the next season without you or some other responsible adult holding their hand!  I know this may seem cruel to some, but considering the alternative, it is also plausible and very effective…  I still worry about my grandkids and so hate to teach them the hard way, but you know?  If they straight-up lie about peeing in my swimming pool, they will lie about going around the pool by themselves and I just don’t trust the older grandkids to be responsible for their safety.  That would be mine.  So be upset if you might about my prehistoric methods of training, but I think I’m onto a pretty good teaching method.
Our oldest grandson, Kennard, Jr., was about six at the time...  Linda and I were sitting on the deck of the pool when he walks up there to visit with us… As I watched him trudge up the steps with that coy smile, I knew it was a matter of time before one of us took the opportunity to nudge this boy into the waiting waters.   He was even dressed for it.  Barefooted with shorts on and of course, no shirt he was a poster child screaming, "Push me into the pool, I dare you!"  Poor child must have been brain-damaged to walk up on this deck that edged our perfectly clean swimming pool to see his favorite Poppy and Mawmaw.   And he was so sweet and I still remember that precious smile on his face.  I was so taken back at this “gift horse” I didn't even notice he had Scrunch, our family cat, held firmly in his arms as he walked up to us to see what we were doing!  What Linda and I did notice was this child’s peaceful demeanor and loving attitude toward us as he approached and what we did not notice was the terror in the eyes of this normally docile feline!  You see, he had packed poor Scrunch up on that deck to ask us if he could toss her into the swimming pool.  Oh, this cat understood perfect English when it was spoken and from the shear act of past conditioning, she knew exactly what was up.  Not that I had ever tossed poor ‘ole Scrunch in this swimming pool or anything, but it would have been obvious had either of us had looked into her eyes we would have seen a spring ready to unload!  I just did not comprehend fast enough that this “dunking” would happen as quickly as it did as I noticed out of the corner of my eye my normally sweet wife pick up her right foot and put it on this innocent child’s hip.  With one smooth push, Junior found himself off balance and tumbling toward the waiting waters of the pool.  Instinctively as his balance was lost, instead of tossing poor Scrunch away, she became an instrument of survival for him as he grasped her tightly against his chest as his tumble toward the pool began!  Now ‘ole Scrunch on the other hand had experience of this unexpected sort around this particular body of water and instinctively knew that she was at some point going to be introduced against her will into the cold depths!   Scrunch was expecting the unexpected where Junior was not, and the instinctive pull of Scrunch into his chest made Scrunch instinctively use his chest and shoulders and part of his back as a launching pad to free herself from the watery depths he thought he was going to take her!   There was this splash and the cat surfaced first and appeared to walk across the water as she climbed over the rail and disappeared before Junior even surfaced!  And when he did, he looked like he had lost a sword fight with Zorro! 

I know many of you that know me are not surprised at what just happened, but I must plead the 5th here as I was not the one that pushed that child into the water while he was holding the cat.  Linda did that!  I helped him, crying bloody murder, out of the water while Linda went inside to get some cotton balls and the hydrogen peroxide to help began the healing process… Neither of us laughed at this point because the poor boy looked, well, messed up… That cat did a number on him and we were actually feeling bad and wondering just what we were going to tell his mom and dad when they came to get him.  All of this was running, I’m sure, through both of our minds as his crying ceased and he began to settle down… Thinking I would use this as a learning experience, I asked him “Junior, what did you learn from this experience?”  I thought maybe he would say something like, “always pay attention to where I am,” or something like that, but the words that came out of his mouth caused us both to lose our stoic composure.  His answer was simple and from the very depths of his heart when he said, “Never swims with cats!”  We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes… He couldn’t help it either… His tears went from painful to joyful with ours as we hugged him and apologized for pushing him into the pool.  Not one of us will ever forget that incident and appreciate his mom and dad for overlooking our early stages of Alzheimer’s we surely displayed! 

As surely as the memories of my swimming pool are pressed firmly into the pages of my mind, I reconnected with that crisp spring day of April 16th, and decided to take a spin on my Goldwing GL 1800.  As I stated earlier, I will some day soon engage the Irish green colors of my pool and eradicate that color from her seasonal grip so grandkids can frolic another year in her oval presence surrounded by my three-level deck!  We have discussed putting a top over the second level along with a fan or even adding a four-person whirlpool spa to the lower deck.  Ideas never stop rolling around in our heads but what tasks we reluctantly undertook 12 years ago are now just dreams.  It is time for another generation to improve on Poppy's house if any improvements are to be made. because on any given summer day just as darkness pauses most life into a peaceful rest you will find what appears to be a lifeless male form, clad only in boxer brief underwear, floating on his back in the calm waters of this pool. If you approach the sides and look closely, you will find the only sign of life is the slow rise and fall in buoyancy as I breathe in and out while the filter pump slowly moves me around in slow circles!

So here I am again, after an absolutely wonderful day of living, catching up with my Facebook friends and their ups and downs of this April day.  Pleasant exchanges as my body began to slow down from self inflicted adrenal rushes of my 300 mile plus motorcycle trip via back roads to Baton Rouge just to see Tiger Stadium and maybe get caught up in an Alex Box baseball game.  Pushing up Hwy 61 toward Natchez, MS., my wife calls wondering where I am, and crossing over into Vidalia, I turn to take in their Riverwalk. Easter is underway there and I stop at Burger King to get me a coke as I have transpired like a plant in a hurricane on the back of that Motorcycle.   I stand in line in amazement as I see friends of mine on several motorcycles slide off the Natchez bridge headed back to Pineville. I tried, in vain, to catch them but ended the solo trip alone as they ducked into some station and fueled up.

Showered, shaved and sitting in the same spot in my bed at 10:35 pm with my laptop engaged, I was just about ready to give it a rest by saying goodnight to everyone when a chat message appeared on the lower right hand of my Facebook page.  It was from Sandy Alexander.  She simply said, "Diane passed away at 5:00 am this morning.  She just let go of my hand."  My mind raced back that morning when I thought, "what could possibly happen or just what could I possibly encounter that would hamper anything on this beautiful day?"  My heart grew heavy as I posted a final message that April 16th, 2011:

           DIANE V. FLETCHER (Diane Young) Or Diane Free as we knew her at Ouachita Parish High School surrendered her life to Eternal Rest today in Houston, TX.  It was just three short weeks ago she posted me and said as she entered Hospice care, "let this new journey began!"  I could clearly see dignity, pride and grace in a fine woman and will miss her.  I pray I will have the courage to face my final days with the same courage and faith she had...

As old friends began to respond to the news, I tuned my computer off and sat it aside.  I would find out more the next day as I again embraced what we have talked about in this story.  Life! 

Rod Ferguson
27 April 2011