Last year, Eric and I found a SwimEx 600S lap pool for sale on eBay. SwimEx is kind of like an Endless Pool, (only better IMO). Using paddle wheels, it creates a smooth current that you can swim against. I love, love, love lap swimming, but our town does not have a community pool. Every so often, we’d get a membership to a gym in the neighboring city but the commute would wear on us and we’d stop going. Getting a pool of our own would be a dream come true, and here was a used one for a fraction of the price.
I can’t actually believe we did it. It was an incredible ordeal. We had to rent a 20’ long flatbed trailer, drive it to California, rent a tele handler to raise the enormous 6’ tall, almost 8’ wide, 20’ long pool onto the trailer, pad it with cardboard and carpet strips, strap it down, drive it all the way home, and use a forklift to maneuver it into position in the shop.
We said repeatedly that it was one of the most absurd things we’d ever done. We didn’t even want to tell our friends or family because it was just so ridiculous. The thing looked like a submarine once we got it into our shop. We had to remind each other that it didn’t matter what it looked like as long as it functioned.
Eric planned to build a little deck around it with steps leading up. He wanted it safe for my bum knee and as convenient as an above-ground behemoth like this could be. The guy we bought it from had it all set up and running. We knew all the parts were working, Eric just needed some extra pipe and wanted to upgrade some of the electrical components.
But he injured his hip jumping out of his truck, and surgery was scheduled. We thought maybe he could work on it after he recovered, but he never got the chance.
I’ve gone out to the shop to sit in its shadow, my head resting on one side of the tank, and wondered what on earth to do with it. I had a half-hearted conversation with a place in town that sells swim spas; they thought they could come out and take a look, but without Eric—without him to build the deck and stairs around it, without him to help me learn how to clean and maintain it, without him cheering me on as I take my first few strokes—the project felt depressing and sad, like trying to piece together the remnants of a popped balloon.
One night last week, I was poking around the internet and stumbled across this site that sells custom length, above-ground lap pools in (relatively) easy to set-up kits. I could not believe all of the options that would work in the shop and immediately started crying. I remember covering my mouth and saying out loud, “Oh, Eric, you will not believe this.”
We spent years combing the internet for lap pool options, looking at everything from swim tethers to current generators. We watched guys on Youtube build pools out of concrete blocks and plaster, researched all the different kinds of swim spas, priced out pools made out of shipping containers, and window-shopped real estate in towns with easier access to community pools. If we had found EZ Pools before the ebay listing for the SwimEx, that is absolutely the route we would have taken. It would have shipped to our door in a kit and it would be already up and running. Insert all the head-slap emojis here, please.
I don’t know if I’ll ever order a kit. Maintaining a pool without Eric still feels like an overwhelming task. But it was the nudge I needed. I listed the SwimEx for sale.
I had to search Eric’s email and text messages for the dimensions and logistics, and cried the entire time. It felt like another death in my graveyard of buried hopes. But after I was finished, and the listing went live, I sat on the edge of the bed looking at the collage of Eric’s photos I have hanging on the wall.
“Maybe, if you’re out there,” I said, wiping my eyes, “You could find someone looking for something like this and nudge them in my direction.”
That night, I had two spam texts regarding the listing. I blocked their numbers and went to sleep feeling like finding a buyer was going to be next to impossible. I pictured living to be a bent old woman and someday dying in this house. My grown up children would come to settle my affairs (all neatly squared away with executable tasks now that I’ve gone through the hell of sudden-death funeral planning & estate handling), but they’d have to stand in the shop talking about what on earth to do with the dusty, submarine-like thing. Burn it? Blow it up? Take the roof off of the shop and airlift it to a junk yard?
But the next morning I had a real inquiry. And the guy really wants it. I sent him all the specs and all the transport challenges and what he’d need to rent, and he still wants it. They’re coming up in two weeks to get it (knock on all the wood things). As soon as it felt real, I broke out in goosebumps and started crying (I do a lot of crying if you couldn’t tell). I looked at the photo collage again and said, “If that was you, thank you.”
I don’t know if Eric’s out there helping me by nudging would-be lap swimmers toward my listing in the classifieds. Maybe I would have found myself texting this guy even if I hadn’t sent up a prayer to my dead husband. But sometimes these things feel just real enough to keep me going.
Here’s a thing I found on Instagram (emphasis mine). It was written by Nick Cave after the death of his son, and I wish I’d been able to articulate these ideas this well.
It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.
I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed. —Nick Cave
I don’t know about the “better now” part of the last sentence. Better than before Eric died? Never. Better than drowning in unrelenting grief? Maybe. Hopefully. One day.
I’ve been working on this post all day. Well, I have been working on multiple posts, I guess, trying to decide what might be best to publish for the five month anniversary of Eric’s death. (I don’t like the made-up “deathiversary” word at all.)
I wrote up a thing about my trip to Jackson Hole last weekend with the kids (we were supposed to scatter Eric’s ashes, but it was cold and rainy and just didn’t feel right). I wrote about the many lifetimes it feels I’ve lived in this single lifespan (Eric’s death is the impetus for my sixth). I wrote about my kid in crisis and his stay at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (amazing experience) and how much better he’s doing, but how ‘better’ doesn’t equal ‘cured.’ I wrote a treatise on what I call my “garden of ampersands,” trying to find words to express the duality of carrying immense grief while simultaneously creating new memories and experiencing joy. I wrote about how many times I’ve driven to the monument place to design a headstone for Eric’s grave and how many times (all of the times) I’ve sat in the parking lot, cried, and then went home without going in.
I’m not sure this is the right post, but I’m not sure any of the others are either. Maybe there’s just nothing good to say tonight as I sit beside Eric’s empty spot on the bed wishing he was here.
It’s almost 9:30pm. The clock is ticking toward the fateful moment, and every cell in my body can feel it. The 911 call, the fumbling first responder, the flashing lights, my kids with their noses pressed to the window, the dreadful hospital scene, his limp hand in mine, the last time I kissed his brow, the deafening sound of his silent heart.
This song has been on replay for most of the weekend. Not all of the lyrics fit, but this part does.
I had all and then most of you Some and now none of you Take me back to the night we met I don’t know what I’m supposed to do Haunted by the ghost of you Oh, take me back to the night we met
Even if I couldn’t change the ultimate outcome, I’d go back to that spring evening in May of 2000 when this shy boy approached my porch with a box of donuts and a mug he’d decorated for my birthday.
Caption: Eric, age 26, on the porch.
I’d walk to the park with him again and teach him how to kiss as the sun went down and the stars came out. I’d say yes when he knelt in another park down in Arizona and asked me to marry him. I’d relive all of our worst moments, I’d endure all four pregnancies again, I’d shatter my knee again, I’d live through months and months of chronic hives again… if only I could have him back. No question whatsoever. Take me back to the night we met, love. Take me back.