Why do I swim? For Kass!
My Aunt Kathy was this amazing woman who played the role of “the cool aunt” for me. It could have been because she was my youngest Aunt, but I think it was much more than that… She watched MTV and liked hip hop, loved the Mariners and the Sonics, and let my cousin Wes and I turn her living room into a real life WWF wrestling arena.
I called her Kass because she was my friend. She and my Dad referred to each other simply as Dude and Dudette. Most of all, she was “cool” because of the great relationship she had with her kids. She poured herself into them, and they in turn into her. She was their friend when they needed a friend, and a mom when they needed a mom. I became a father myself recently, and it makes me happy to know that she is an ingredient in the tossed salad of parenthood that comes from mixing in my wife and both our families.
Kathy passed away in November after a 7 year battle with ovarian cancer. It wasn’t the first time cancer struck our family, but that didn’t make it any easier. Through it all, she kept her amazing spirit and managed to smile at every opportunity, even if she had to create one. When I hopped in the pool two years ago to begin training to swim in her honor, it had been years since I tallied up any yardage.
Most life-long swimmers will agree: years of laps as an age group swimmer, then into high school and beyond, have a way of slowly wearing down the edges. But Kass kept putting one foot in front of the other, kept smiling, kept fighting… so why not keep putting one hand in front of the other each day for a few months? Slowly, the rhythms of the morning became ritual again, and I learned to love something all over. Just another thing Kass gave to Dad (Dude) and me: the rediscovery of something lost. This year, team Dudes for Kass transitions to swimming in Kass’ memory, which will undoubtedly take on new meaning and bring new revelations during the 6 o’clock hour. She may not be on shore holding a box of donuts, but she will be with our every stroke, as she always was.