Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jimbo

Summers come and summers go.  Summers fly by.
But these last few summers have been some of the best of my life.
Having kids- even little kids that aren't in school yet- has made me realize how ingrained in our memories a concept like "summer" can be. And how important "living" (spending time with people you care about, splashing and playing and trying not to get sunburned) is to learning about the world.  The experience of "summer" is a blessing that I am proud to be able to share and pass on to my kids.

I imagine if we didn't know Jimbo and Sue, we would have figured out another way to create a summer for our children.  But I'm so grateful that we have these friends.
Jimbo and Sue open the pool in May and close it well into September.  The pool is heated and I mean to at least the mid-80s.  There's a full size refrigerator, a shaded TV area to watch the Red Sox, and enough seating for at least 25 on a daily basis.

There was a "TBR pool" in my childhood (that was owned and operated by Jimbo's parents).  The rules at that pool were simple:
- Please come to the pool
- Come to the pool anytime, day or night
- Bring anyone to the pool that you wish
- Bring anything to eat or drink
- If you do not bring food- some will be provided for you
- Please don't even call- just come over if you want to swim
- If we aren't home, you know how to get in (to the pool and the house) no need to wait for us to take a dip or have a beer out of the fridge.

When Jim and Maizie (Jimbo's parents) sold their house and the pool of my childhood memories sometime around 2000 or 2001 (I think), my mom called me:
"I don't want to forget to tell you," she started, "The TBR's sold their house.  They are moving next month."
My mouth went dry.  I was a little sad in that "end of an era" kind of way, but mostly, I was stunned into the realization that had my mom not made this call in a timely fashion, I might have been on the business end of some handcuffs and fingerprinting ink.

As I walked into their new pad, the experience of greeting total strangers who were acting completely "at home" in the TBR's house would not have tipped me off.  I can imagine the change in furniture might strike me as surprising, but it wouldn't stop me from checking out what beverages might be in the mini fridge on the porch.  They would have had plenty of time to call the cops as I laid my towel on the fence, disrobed, and dove into their new pool...

Fortunately for my family, Jimbo and Sue continued on the "mi casa es su casa" tradition.  Same pool rules with at least one bizarre addition: No plastic cups or dishes at the pool.  (What can I say, Sue really likes to wash dishes and clean up broken glass, poolside...) With 4 children age six and under, my sister and I have negotiated our way around this regulation.

I've known Jimbo my entire life. I've actually known him longer that that.  He and my dad were best buddies in high school.  When we were young, my parents didn't do that surrogate "aunt" and "uncle" thing that Katy and I are inclined to do as a way to introduce our very close friends to our children.  As one of 8 children and one of 4 children, respectively, I guess Mom and Dad figured, there were enough uncles and aunts to keep straight without adding more titles.  If Jimbo was like an uncle to me, it was mostly because his sisters were like aunts to me and by the power of the transitive properties, the brother of an aunt has to be an uncle...

But I was so shy when I was little, and Jimbo is not exactly a chatterbox.  I'm not sure I said more than 20 words to him until I was in high school.  His kids were in need of babysitters when I was just exiting that "babysitting age", so for a couple of decades, our 2 families had very little in common, except some cherished holidays that we spent together. 

Fast forward 20 more years.  In some ways assisted by the "staggered" generations, there is an extended family here that we have chosen, and it is as strong as any family forged in DNA or bonded by blood.  When I think of my dad eulogizing his parents, I see Jimbo and Sue in the pews behind us in a church that was foreign to them, and then scampering about, helping with food, acting as a protective presence after the services as well.

When I think of our children being born, I look right past the huge gift basket that Sue presented us to the beaming, excited smile on her face, and the chiding "My little dog
comes first, but I am going to love these kids!!!"

So similar to his dad before him, Jimbo is successful and proud- yet, humble.  He is quiet yet fun.  He is generous as to make generosity seem obvious.  I've never seen him lose his cool.  Even when I've seen him in tumultuous situations and/or embroiled in conflict, I've never seen him riled up or contemptuous or even the slightest bit indignant.  He's not particularly religious (that I can tell) but he generally acts out the "do unto others adage" without giving it a moment's thought.  He has fed and clothed and bathed (and offered a pool to) not only me and people he loves, but any stranger that any of us leads onto his property. 

Last summer we watched Jimbo's mom slip mostly away- deeper and deeper into Alzheimer's. I'd sit by her with the kids explaining over and over who we were. Even under a veil of memory loss, she was who I've always know her to be: polite, full of smiles and gentle laughs, occasionally opinionated and strong-willed. She'd sit poolside in the evening and when Jimbo walked in, she'd light up.  She'd go straight to him or call him over... It became clear that Maizie frequently thought Jimbo was her husband.  Son or husband, she wanted to just be near him. And there they often sat, hand in hand for a bit of time.  It was hard to watch but harder to look away from: Heartbreaking but thoroughly endearing.  As he ages, it is impossible not to see why his mom would be confused.  If you didn't know G'pa Jim (Jimbo's dad), it won't mean as much, but the apple did not fall far from the tree, as they say.

Whether golfing or riding a motorcycle, or watching a movie, a ball game, playing a board game, just being in his presence helps me appreciate the healing powers of socialization, of community Rest and Relaxation.  To be with him is to see a man SIT and experience joy and contentment, to appreciate the little things (and the big things). Spending time by his side, I feel I have learned to be better at relaxing at having fun.

Because of Jimbo and Sue, our recent and current summers are not just long and lazy, they are full and rich.  They are not trite.  The pool is where we bring our laughter and silliness, but also where we bring our stresses and sorrows, where we share and try to swim away our anxieties.  It's where I bring my boys to cool off and learn to swim and to experience a certain civility that might be dying out in the world; and where we are lucky enough to watch a lot of our dreams come true. 

Happy Birthday, Jimbo!  We love you!

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