I wrote this in June 2012, before I even signed up for Ironman Florida. All I had done until that point was say I wanted to do it. Life this week has been to hectic to be able to write something I would actually like you to read, and so I am bringing this one back from the past. It’s one of my favorite moments. Enjoy.
Since I said I was going to do an IronMan people assign to me a strength I don’t necessarily have. My race is in 2013 … I still have some time to become that woman, though I already see hints of her.
While vacationing in Vermont, we took our two boys and their two local cousins to a swimming hole. It was beautiful, natural, and opposite to our chlorine pools. We were forewarned the water was cold – even for the locals. The swim hole had a culvert from which kids jump off, its top sat about six feet above the water. Six-year-old Lightning, one of our local cousins, took his shirt off and jumped right in. Dreamer, my cautious six-year-old said he had no desire to jump; while Fearless, my daredevil of a four-year-old wanted to go for it. Fearless was not thinking of the cold or the height, impulsive as he is, all he wanted was to jump. But when he got to the edge and realized it looked more like a hundred feet from up there, doubt finally entered and he asked me if I could “catch” him at the bottom. I obviously can’t catch him … but if my being in the water would help him jump, then by golly I would do it. Except that I am Cuban via Brazil and Miami and not a fan of cold water, and this water was more than cold: it was freezing.
I came out of the water, dried off and got the circulation going into my legs again. Later Dreamer was the only cousin that had not jumped. He asked me if he could try. “Sure honey,” I answered, while in my mind I thought “he has seen everyone go for it, he’ll make this quick.”
That thought stayed exactly at that, a thought. “Mami, can you catch me?”
Really? I was already dry and warm and dressed. But how could I say no when I did it for my daredevil? “Sure honey.” I answered again. If I can train for an IronMan, I could surely do this.
Except that “this” took a lot longer. Dreamer really wanted to jump but could not bring himself to do it. I thought my guy needed some coaching and I was going to give it to him. I stayed there, unmoving in the frozen water. I didn’t feel the cold as I was so concentrated with the task at hand: kindly pushing him to jump off the culvert, encouraging, telling little lies: “don’t worry, water doesn’t really go up your nose” or “it’s not that cold, can’t you see I am in here?” I hoped he didn’t notice my trembling arms.
me to “catch” him
I would see him bend his legs, move his arms forward and just as I thought he was going to go for it, he would straighten up again. I would see him do this over and over again. At one point, he put his hands together and said a little prayer – but he opened his eyes and still could not bring himself to jump. He stayed there, on top of the culvert, going through a major internal struggle of which we saw glimpses for about half an hour. I desperately wanted him to find his own way in or out of this situation.
Would it be ok if he didn’t jump? “Not a big deal,” said his dad. But he wanted to jump. He placed his hands over his eyes to hide the tears, everyone was telling him he could do it, and his fearless brother stood behind him “encouraging” him to jump.
“Okay Mami, let me think about this.” He told me. “Honey, you can do this, I know you can.” I heard my own internal dialogue with the IronMan. “Let me think about this … no way … I know I can” how many times had I not had this exact conversation with myself?
I was not going to let Dreamer give up if what he really wanted was to jump. He said he wanted to think about it again, and I told him I would count down from ten and then he would jump.
We all started a countdown and I was not sure this was such a good idea. Five of us started …ten, nine, eight … his face showed signs of determination … seven, six, five … his legs bent, his torso inched forward … four, three, two, one and JUMP. No, not really. Ok I can, I can … JUMP!
He did it! He actually jumped and I was not sure who was more excited. I grabbed him as he came up from the water and he was laughing and crying and holding on tight.
Meanwhile, I was nearly frostbitten but it didn’t matter. After the swim, we went to have lunch and as my boys ate their ham and cheese sandwiches I loved them more than ever. Well, in truth I love them more than ever each passing day. I was proud of both of my sons: the daredevil and the cautious one. As they joked around with their dad and cousins, I saw my reflection in each of them. I am reckless and irresponsible and fearful and cautious all at once.
So if just by saying I will be doing an IronMan gives me instant courage and strength, then I wonder how I will be when I actually do one.