Pic: I don’t have any proof that I was on the swim team, no pictures that I can find. So here’s one of me in our front yard. You get an idea of how cool I was. And my little sister, Grace, was sporting a Pac-Man tee, thank you Bobb, for all those Pac-Mans. I remember the term, I don’t remember what they were specifically, but my guess is they were painful, and never ending.
Bobb, you are the reason I push myself to the limits. You pushed me to push myself, it came very naturally to me, you saw that and encouraged it by yelling at me. I remember your face after I swam my first I.M. You put me in as an experiment, and it worked. You had a smile on your face when you told me I did a good job. I remember feeling like I finally found my place on the team. Prior to that being my race, I swam the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke. I was mediocre at both. In fact I was mediocre at all of the strokes, which is why the I.M. worked for me, and it worked like this: I’d get way behind in the butterfly, get ahead in backstroke, keep my lead in breaststroke, and barely keep my lead in freestyle. (That’s when I’d hop out of the pool, fold out my cardboard box and bust a move, for those of you who don’t know what freestyle is. It’s also the leg of the race where I’d flow off the top of my head.)
I remember, like everyone else, the music you’d play while you casually kicked our ass. Beatles, and everything else. I have a horrible memory for artists’ names, but I remember the songs, and today when I hear them I think of you. I can smell old chlorine. I can feel those little square tiles under my feet. I can hear the echo of voices as we’d walk in the tunnel from the girls locker room to the pool. I was proud to be on the swim team. I was happy to do the work you demanded of us, because I knew it would make me better and make our team strong.
I remember when I had to swim the 500, because everyone had to at some point. It was at a Beaver River meet, I took it VEEEEERY slow because I had no idea how to pace myself. I finished, totally not out of breath and totally in last place. I approached it like a warm down, which is not correct, but you didn’t really care. I don’t think you were counting on me to win that one.
I remember you NOT going easy on me after I burned my wrist severely on our wood stove. I had half a pack of band aids on it, that came off pretty quickly while I did one arm fly during practice. You bandaged it up and told me to go do a 1,000 I.M., or something like that.
I remember the meets. Feeling nauseous on bus fumes on the way there. I remember butterflies in my stomach every time the race before mine ended. I remember you giving me last minute advice before sending me up to the blocks, the anticipation of the gunshot before the start, hearing the muffled voices of you and my teammates cheering, walking up and down the length of the pool while I pushed as hard as I could in the water. I remember your whistle, I remember when you’d get mad at us. I remember Saturday morning practices, too early to be working out, but we did it anyway. I remember donuts from P&C after those practices, or if we were lucky, something that Kelly Witmer’s mom baked for us.
You were a stellar coach. You were the perfect mix of drive, demand, serious and sweet. You, as a human being, were completely authentic. We didn’t get much of that in high school, so it was refreshing to have you show us what THAT was like. To have someone in our lives who was hard on us because you believed, and who loved us completely no matter what.
Thank you for helping me find my strengths. I hope, wherever you are, that you will be able to click on my website and read this. I’m pretty sure they have WIFI in heaven. I love you, Bobb.