Learning to swim, learning for a lifetime


It was many, many moons ago when I learned to swim, and in those years of long ago it was not in a pool with a licensed instructor. It was at the confluence of the Neuse and Little rivers, and the instructor was my older brother, who threw me in those then-clear waters.

It was an event that sparked a memory-making moment that has lasted a lifetime.

I still remember as clear as a photograph the exact location. It was a moment that profoundly impacted my life as a 6- or 7-year-old.

My brother was five years older, and there was little I could do other than learn to swim so I did.

I wanted to kill him, but growing up with a brother five years older leaves few options except surviving. I did that, too.

Both of us, and a lot of other kids in the neighborhood of my childhood, played and romped carelessly along the banks of those two rivers.

We all got “whuppins” for it, but did it anyway.

We are now in the so-called dog days of summer and hot is still hot.

I sat in the comfort of my living room the other night and thought about those early days without air conditioning and wondered how in the world we survived.

When my brother tossed me in the river those many years ago and I learned to swim, I also developed a deep respect for that river.

Until a few years ago I always had a boat and spent countless hours on the Neuse River, enjoying its beauty and its history and abundance of wildlife. Believe it or not, thinking about that the other night made me get foolish.

We older folks earned that right.

It was late in the afternoon, an hour or so of light left. I slipped on my bathing suit, drove down to a wildlife boating access area, and ... I went swimming ­­— all by myself. The waters were cool and I made sure I splashed around enough to scare any snakes away.

“This is near where I learned to swim,” I thought.

It was also near where my brother, who taught me how to swim, wanted his ashes tossed when he passed away. It was somewhat of a private event on that day when I gave a final goodbye to my older brother.

He taught me so much, and I kept my promise to him.

Learning can quite often be a traumatic thing, but it can also be such an experience that it stays with you for a lifetime.

William Holloman is a staff writer for the Mount Olive Tribune.


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