Finally, I was able to spend some time doing nothing on a weekend day. I decided to forgo my yoga class so I could get the laundry done and the house cleaned in order to spend the afternoon — or at least a few hours — out in the sun.
I headed over to the community pool where I live and found the perfect spot for catching some rays, making sure that I had all the SPF required. I settled in to sun and relax.
Children were swimming and playing, laughing and screaming and I was reminded of the summer I was 17. That summer, before my senior year in high school, I was a lifeguard at Finneran Pool in Calumet City.
For $2.70 an hour I was employed to ensure that nobody drown or killed themselves diving into the pool. I was able to blow my whistle, make kids duck walk around the pool for not behaving and in some cases I made misbehaving kids (almost always young boys) do push ups. Times were different then. I’m not sure you wouldn’t get sued for making a kid duck walk today. But, back then it was all done in fun. It was almost an honor for the boys.
The memory of the pool and working as a lifeguard reminded me of a boy I met that summer. His name was Bob and he went to another school — a Catholic school, so I didn’t know him. He spent a lot of time at the pool and we started dating, if you could call it that. We were so young and our relationship revolved around the pool.
He was really sweet and for a lengthy period of maybe three weeks we were together almost all the time. But, alas, it was summer and freedom called and we parted ways.
I was not sorrowful, though I really did like Bob, there were other boys and it was summer.
I began dating another lifeguard. His name was George and he was already in college at the University of Illinois, studying engineering. He loved Dire Straights and had been a gymnast in high school. We had a lot of fun together during the few weeks we dated, but again, things didn’t last long.
He dumped me for another park employee who was younger. I was a bit miffed this time and didn’t understand. But, he was going back to school in the fall anyway. I was going to finish high school and I would go to Northern Illinois University.
I forgot about George.
Time moves on and memories fade. But, about a year or so ago, George found me on Facebook. I wasn’t even sure who he was and wouldn’t have accepted his friendship if he hadn’t sent me a message explaining how I knew him.
He reminded me of that summer many years ago. He told me how he was married with children and how he’d saved letters I’d written to him. Letters I’d completely forgotten about. Even then I was a writer and would pour my heart out in letters to my beaus. My mother always warned me about that.
I was touched to know that all these years later he still has the letters I wrote to him. They meant something, even if our summer love didn’t last.
After that summer, I never saw Bob again. I think I may have spied him once years later in a grocery store — he was hard to miss because he was a really handsome guy.
I’d forgotten about him as well over time. Then one day a two years ago while I was at my father’s house I happened to pick up the newspaper and as I always have done — just like my parents — I read the obituaries. I was struck when I saw Bob’s name in there. He was 40 at the time. Far too young in my book to die.
I didn’t know how to feel. I think I had to read the obit over and over a few times to fully realize that it was for the boy I knew so many years ago. I felt badly for his family and for his younger sister. I wondered what had happened. Did he die of natural causes or was it something else? It made no sense.
Today while I was relaxing poolside, gathering rays, the memories came and I was happy thinking of those summer days. Of the silly games we would play. Of swimming with Bob and cruising around with George.
Mostly, I thought about Bob and how for being as blonde as he was (he was Swedish, Dutch and German) he could get the best tan. I remembered how sweet and innocent he was. And, how he had the best smile.
Though my summer loves may have been fleeting, those memories are some I will always cherish.