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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Extreme circumstances…

A couple of days ago I mentioned my best friend, Carol.  We have been friends since the morning I found her in the lobby of the company I worked for, back in 1972.  We became best friends forever in short order.  We both were married, we  had small children.  We both had to divorce our husbands, and then figure out how to live on nothing.  We both went back to school to upgrade out skills.  We both did fine in the end, but it was a tough slog along the way.  Carol did remarry, and her husband once asked how we’d remained friends for all those years.  “We know too much about each other!”  And we do...the triumphs, the failures, that stuff that makes best friends best friends forever.  Carol was at the end of my bed when I woke up from the stroke.  ‘Nuff said.

Back when we were divorced and poor, the next hardest thing after putting food on the table and making the mortgage payment was child care.  I had two daughters and she had a son, younger than my two.  They went down in stepping stones, Beth 7, Shelly 5, Jimmy 3.  We became experts at finding summer camps, Y programs, after school programs, and getting our kids booked in before the available places were filled.

The year these three musketeers were 10, 8 and 6 we enrolled them in a swimming program at the Y.  It was an eight or ten week program and I have no idea what they were supposed to learn.  Carol or I would pick them up when the class was done and from the back seat the three would excitedly discuss the exhibition they were practicing for the parents at the end of the course.

On the appointed afternoon Carol and I were dutifully seated in the hot and steamy bleachers of the pool room, waiting for the show.  The tadpoles and minnows showed off their skills and then the advanced group came out.  In the line, walking toward the deep end of the pool, were Beth, Shelly and Jimmy.  Down the long end of the pool, turn the corner of the shorter end, stopping at the high diving board.

Carol and I were reasonably distraught.  Jimmy was only six.  What was he doing there??!!  All the children went up the ladder, made their dives.  Up went Jimmy, made his dive.  We watched with mingled terror and admiration as that little you know what went through the entire program with children up to twice his age, demonstrating diving and swimming.

The first thing we asked him, after the program:  how did you get in that group?  “I went with Beth and Shelly.”  Yep, when the instructor said everyone eight or older go there, everyone under eight go to the other end of the pool, Jimmy made the instant decision to stick with the only people he knew.  He said he was eight and Beth and Shelly vouched for him.  The rest was up to Jimmy, and he did it.

Jimmy’s a Marine.  Special Forces.  Underwater stuff.  He retires this year.

Beth, Jimmy and Shelly on vacation with Mom in 1976.  So, they would be 11, 9 and 7. 


  1. Courage comes in all, Carol and Jimmy!
    Jane x

  2. Thank you for an inspiring blog post, I enjoyed reading.

  3. He showed signs at an early age.

  4. That was surely a sign of things to come!

  5. That is an impressive 40 years of friendship! It calls for a celebration. I really enjoy reading your posts, you are a great storyteller.

  6. Amazing writing. My heart was in my mouth. And yes, I agree with mybabyjohn/Delores, the signs were certainly there. Determination and drive from a very early age.

  7. What a spunky kid! Who grew into a spunky adult, too. Hats off to him.

    And hats off to you and Carol for raising your kids well with no help.

  8. Oh my!!!! I didn't know you were a stroke survivor, too!!! We are sisters!!!

  9. He was showing his stripes early ! what a great little kid he sounds!

  10. Little monkey! Courage and grit in one small package! Good on him!