I was flipping through radio stations yesterday and the schmaltzy - but classic - lyrics of Peter Cetera's "Inspiration" floated my air-conditioned box. "You're the meaning in my life, you're the inspiration" he crooned before I switched back to commercials, willing my teary eyes to dry and focus on the road. How strange that I switch from songs to commercials in order to avoid emotional flashpoints.
William's swim team banquet was Wednesday night and I told his coach near the end of that long but lovely evening that I deserved a medal for withholding tears. He blinked, confused. His kids are younger and he may not completely understand the ache of loss surrounding graduation and departure for college, though certainly coaches and teachers experience grief when a favorite class departs and all that's left is an urgent need for restructuring and finding new talent.
In the words of William's head coach, the senior class was "generational," even "transcendent." They re-wrote the record books at the state and school level. William walked away with three All-American times (that means the top 100 times in the country this year, which I didn't know previously because I never came close to achieving it), the fourth-fastest 100 butterfly in school history, and a stack of team awards. The other seniors benefited similarly from their hard work, and they all supported each other's rise as a team, sticking with the sport even as the season extended a month into their summer vacation.
As the sun set over the Rockies the inevitable team slide show brightened up a big screen. Young faces gasping for air as they cruised through water, or masked in cheers and poolside rallies, all so full of promise, so passionate. Then the seniors' baby photos and earliest swim shots, chubby cheeks trapped under too-big goggles, curly hair escaping tiny swim caps, itty-bitty Speedos barely holding around their hips. The cherubic faces elicited oohs and ahs from the crowd and I could hear the coaches guessing the identity of each child, so different from the tall, broad-shouldered men on stage. And yet, so much the same, so dear and always and forever a child whose growth cannot be measured by times, points and awards but in heartache and heart-leaps, love and loss.