Friday, March 14, 2014

Not Even Dad

I made a list at the beginning of the week to make sure I did everything I needed to do while on Spring Break. I lost my list and well enough because number one was: grade student papers. Yeah, right.

I was hoping to swim a lot and I've fought really hard to make that happen but alas, it's been too dang cold. The weather has been running five to sixteen degrees below the weatherman's projections. Monday I drove out to Coleman (a part of Tacket Fish Farm) and swam in my latest pond. The water was 60. For Shawn Turner that would necessitate an ice drink at the end and some quality air-conditioning to keep from overheating. But my wetsuited, cold-water sissy self only did one lap (.78 miles) before I didn't want to be cold anymore. Did I mention that I shuffled 4.1 miles before the swim? The whole time I was running, I was trying to get my mind right to stay in the water a really long time. Did you figure out that I failed? Socket rientist.

Tuesday I went back to Coleman. I like the pond, and I love the levees for running before and after swimming, which I did that day. However, the fish are very aggressive in there. Monday I was repeatedly torpedoed by fish who all had very hard heads. How are they making fish these days? I wasn't injured, but I did become nervous thinking about the time I got finned in the palm, paralyzing my right hand or forty-five minutes.

I took a 3.1 mile run first, and I saw something that looked like an alligator swimming in one corner of the pond. I waded in anyway. Actually, I think it might have been a muskrat, but it was definitely some being who does not pay membership dues. Coleman is on the banks of the Quiver River which means all sorts of creatures can sneak in such as alligators, Sasquatch, and giant snapping turtles. When I made it to that part of the pond, something smashed into my right forearm with enough force to knock it upward a foot or more. I about crapped my wetsuit. I think I'm going back to my old new pond, the one I call the Pond of Perpetual Pumpitude. In it the fish are small, the water is deep, and I've never been touched by an unknown, non-dues paying creature while swimming there.

Once again, the temperature failed to get anywhere near its projected high, Wednesday, so I stayed home lifted weights and did a couple of varieties of cardio. Specifically, I performed several rounds of bike trainer/treadmill work. This is the kind of workout that can pay dividends this July when I do the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon if I repeat this often enough. I did eleven minutes on the trainer, spinning up to a shortness of breath and six minutes on the treadmill three times trough for a total of  thirty-three minutes of pedalling and eighteen minutes of running.

After Mary Hodge got off work, we loaded Jeff up and headed to the recycle bins. These huge repositories of our recyclable stuff are located near the banks of the Yazoo River and adjacent to a couple of trails the city built over the last year. One trail is rock, tear-shaped, track-like thing suitable for committing suicide on. But in the woods along the river is a delightful path worthy of running, walking, or just sitting. We took Jeff down there and let him pee on every tree within three feet of the trail. Poor thing must have dehydrated himself, and as we strolled along the river, I started to hatch ideas about swimming.

I'm a coward, but while the cool air blew in our faces, and a chorus of songbirds announced peace to the world, I thought I just might have the moxie to jump in those muddy, swift waters and swim downstream. It was, at least, a nice thought. Heck. I even hatched a plan. I could park at the boat ramp and then walk up the trail carrying my wetsuit. I have tons of old running shoes, so I could just abandon a pair when I got ready to get into the water. If you go to the end of the trail and bit more beyond, there is a ditch that empties into the river and this, I thought, would be the perfect place to suit up and swim. I could go downstream to the boat ramp and climb out there.

Before Mary Hodge and I left, we stopped at the ramp, and I walked down to stick my hand into the water. I left it there a few seconds and surmised the temp to be 58. I can do this, I thought, and I got that slight butteryfly feeling in my stomach, a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

The next day, Thursday, I headed to Carroll County for a run and to check on the place. Since Dad died, I haven't really checked on things because our Carroll County trips have been to Hillbilly Heaven after Mary's mother, Louise, passed. The first thing I did was drive over to Dad's shooting house. I climbed the steps and noticed one of them was rotting. He built this thing when he was in his mid-sixties and over the years has repaired and modified it. Now it has carpeting on the steps, and large carpeted porch on the back, and camouflage netting from the bottom of the front all the way to the ground. He could get in and out without spooking deer if there were any are in his field. The floor is fourteen feet off the ground and it overlooks an acre and a half of a food plot he planted every year. I climbed down and walked the plot and headed up some paths he kept bush hogged. For the fist time in weeks, I cried. I felt so close to him yet so far away.

From the time of his passing, I have laughed as much as I've wept. We had a good relationship, and I have nothing but nice memories of him. He was eccentric and lived life like nobody I ever knew. He believed in filling every day as full as he could fill it. So when I think about him, I often end up smiling or chuckling, or even laughing out loud. But I miss him terribly and that is the part that makes me sad. And even though he was almost eighty-five, I still have this strange feeling that he died before his time. Maybe that comes from his health and activity level. I think it also comes from my mom's health struggles. It just seemed self-evident that he would outlive her so as long as she was alive, his death wasn't even a thought. Now he is gone and she is doing better than she has in years. You just never know about life. Or death.

Everything about the place reminded me of him: his food plot, his shooting house, his gardens, the paths he bush hogged, his tractor. I cranked the tractor. The battery was weak, but it fired up and I drove it around a bit. Then I drove my truck down to the cabin and changed into my running attire. I had planned on running the gravel roads but instead I shuffled the fields and paths of my dad. A Garmin watch is nice like that. You can run anywhere and change plans on the go and still know exactly how far you went. I went 5.03 miles. I went home.

After a brief rest, I decided to drive over to the boat landing to see if I really had the nerve to jump into that river. I squatted and soaked my hand in the water which told me the river had cooled overnight and was at that moment 57 degrees. I looked out at the churning, brown river as it rolled past the boat ramp. I knew how I would feel if I pulled it off: exhilarated. I've felt that before; you get it when you swim something that makes you a little nervous to try. I think it's what the ocean swimmers feel and why they go back and back. But to have that feeling, you must first have the nerve to take the plunge, to put yourself on the line, to try something that is a little bit uncomfortable, frightening even. I wondered if I was strong enough to swim out of the current and into the boat shoot or would the power of the river sweep me downstream and past safety. Then I had a loss of nerve, stood and said out loud, "No way. Dad wouldn't even do that."