When I swim, my mind wanders. I mostly think back to a time when I would spend 15-18 hours a week swimming. Those were good days. The friendships formed in the water will last me my lifetime. As I swim now, I think of these friends. Many of them are still swimming at the Masters level and achieving amazing things. After these few months of trying to get back into my swimming rhythm, I have the greatest respect for those who continue in this discipline and who continue to compete internationally. You, my friends, inspire me.
Every time I start on the kick board, my arms stretch out, fingers to the end, left wrist hooked over the right- push off the wall and streamline kick underwater. It's like I have never forgotten this position. I just automatically do it. And then it comes. The instant memory of my friend Hilda. We always liked kicking together, because then we could chat and laugh and plan our next movie outing or talk about the latest magazine she had. We couldn't chat like this when we swam, but as we kicked, we could come alongside one another and talk.
So this winter, as I grab the kick board, she's the one I think of. I can see her goggles raised up to her forehead, I see the sun glisten off her strong arms. I hear her laugh. I hear our coach Jaime, telling us to go harder and stop laughing.
Today is the third anniversary of her passing. I never got to fulfill our plan of a visit and having her meet my husband and meeting her girls and being together again. We said we would really do this visit, and we talked about it for years. She told me she had a guest room ready for me whenever I wanted to stay with her.
That's why it was so important for me to visit her home and meet her beautiful girls and see her husband again, when I visited the Dominican Republic this past summer. I'm so glad I did. It was wonderful to meet these young women, carrying their mom's spirit and courage and strength. Hearing an echo of their mom in their laugh. Catching a glimpse of their mom in the quick smile, the kindness in their eyes.
We all laughed when they showed me the boxes of magazines that Hilda had stored away, and how some would still arrive in the mail. I told them stories of the magazines we would read together, and the movies we went to at the Plaza Naco.
I missed the chance for our long talked about reunion. But I'm glad I got to know her girls and be in her home.
I miss you, Hilda. I'm glad that when I pull out the kick board it's you that comes to mind. I treasure the friendship that was formed while we swam and kick-boarded together.
|Hilda, Joan, circa 1981|
|Hilda, Joan, 1982 at my surprise birthday party|
|Paola, Hilda, Patricia, 2009 (?)|
|Paola, Jorge, Patricia, 2011|
|with Hilda's girls, in their home|