I Believe in Swimming

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A couple years ago, my Grandpa and Nana visited my house for a cookout. We have a small farm nestled at the bottom of Mount Nittany. And we just finished putting the finishing touches on our pool. It was warm that day, the birds were singing and the sun was shining. We could even see some of our horses grazing on the grass. We all devoured hamburgers and hot dogs on the front deck that looks over the barn.

When my sister and I were finished, I told my dad we were going out back to take a dip in the pool. So he cleared his spot too and we went to swim. As we got in the pool, it started to get darker. So my dad lit the tiki torches. Now there was a dim light that showed the silhouettes of the forest a couple of yards away from the pool. It made swimming that night feel magical.

We were in the pool for about ten minutes when my Grandpa strutted out in a bathing suit. We were all surprised to see him in a bathing suit. He didn’t usually like to swim with us. But he hopped right into the chilly pool. My dad wanted to swim in circles and try to form a whirlpool. We all joined in and had so much fun. It was a time full of laughter and grinning.

Later that week my dad told me, “Of all the years I spent with your Grandpa at Penn’s Creek and other lakes, this was the first time he ever swam with me.” I remember the feeling I had when he said this. I felt good inside, because my Grandpa decided to swim with me.

But soon after my Grandpa’s swim with us, my dad gave me the worst news in the world: “Your Grandpa has cancer,” he said. I remember feeling my heart descend. I was looking forward to Grandpa swimming with us again, but by the tone of my dad’s voice, I could tell we wouldn’t be seeing him in the pool, planting gardens, cleaning out bird houses or working on wood projects anymore. About five months later, his health became worse. In March of this year, he passed away. I dreamt I could have swum with him more.

Now, when I think of swimming, I think of my Grandpa. The last time we were in the pool, we were with him. My Grandpa recently took his last breath. But just a glimpse of my pool makes me remember him enjoying life. The last couple of months before he passed, I would always see him resting in his bed. I could not believe he was the same man who was so full of life, jokes and laughter. But every time I’m around a pool, or swimming, I remember my Grandpa as a happy, fun-loving man.

Swimming brings my family together. It can make grownups act like kids so everyone has fun. I love my family. I love and miss my Grandpa. And because of him, I believe in swimming.


Bernadette & John Low
Darlington MD
Aug 04, 2011

Many thanks to Katherine for a wonderful memory of her grandfather and our friend.  J&B

Jackie Kunes
Port Matilda
Aug 04, 2011

What a wonderful essay.  Your Grandpa would be so very proud of you.  You certainly captured a very special moment in you life with you words and feelings.

Aunt Rie
Bellefonte Pa
Aug 06, 2011

You were a true gift to your Grandpa!  Your naked emotion makes me cry…it’s so heartfelt!

aunt martha
lancaster pa
Aug 07, 2011

Dear Katherine,
I was brought to the point of tears ,but I thought Dad would rather see me smile. So i did. Your reading brought back some my swimming days. I will have to tell you my stories.
                              Love, Aunt Martha

Uncle Mike
Lancaster PA
Aug 07, 2011

Dear Katherine

Your story would have made your Grampa proud and I am sure somewhere he is smiling.  I have many fond memories of him and miss him very much as well.  The memories we have of him helps him endure within us, and how your grampa lived set an example of how we all should live.  Helping your neighbor, being a friend to everyone, and teaching and shareing what you have with others.
Thank You Katherine for sharing with us,  Uncle Mike

michele chernega
State College, PA
Aug 09, 2011

Dear Katherine,
I loved hearing this story about your Grandpa, a dear friend of mine. I wonder if he knew he was ill when he joined you in the pool? I will add this lovely memory to others of have of your sweet family and it will help me be courageous about living.
Keep afloat!
Love, mc

Jon Olson
State College, PA
Aug 11, 2011

I love your beautiful essay, Katherine. As two of your readers have already mentioned above, your grandfather would indeed be proud of your ability to connect heart and mind through words. Thank you. —Jon

Leigh Ryan
Adelphi, MD
Aug 12, 2011

Dear Katherine,
Your essay is beautiful!  What a lovely way to remember your grandpa.  Because of you, I will now think of him whenever I’m in a swimming pool.  He was indeed a very special man, and I’m glad you have those happy memories to treasure always. 
Leigh Ryan (one of your grandpa’s writing center friends)

Jon Olson
State College
Dec 20, 2011

Hello again, Katherine. I bookmarked your essay here, and I listen to it whenever I need to reflect on warm memories and savor good writing. As I told you I would do, I played your essay through a projected computer as part of “Remembering Ron Maxwell,” a compilation of video clips and comments following the Saturday luncheon in Miami, FL, Nov. 5, at the 28th annual National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing held at Florida International University Nov. 4-6, 2011. Your grandpa helped establish that conference organization, and I took ten writing tutors to the conference last month just as your grandpa would have done before he retired. Your essay was the hit of the presentation. As one person said afterward, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house” when your essay ended. I might also add that Leigh Ryan, who posted a comment above, had talked about your essay a day earlier in a presentation (she had heard it when I posted the link on Facebook). All to say, thank you once again, Katherine, for writing “I Believe in Swimming.” Your words have reached a large and appreciative audience. —Jon

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