FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: The Cold Swim.


by Dave Markwell

The other night I drove my truck down to the marina in my hometown. As the bright orange sun lit the water, then fell behind the mountains, I cracked a twenty-four ounce “lemonade” and cried.

I cried because I had just learned that one of my oldest and best friend’s dad had passed away. I cried for my friend. I cried for his mom and family. And I cried for myself.

When the people we love are struck by loss, so are we. We share their loss with them and we have our own loss, because we loved the person, too. In ways that we don’t often acknowledge or maybe even understand, we love a lot of people. We love them because they are good and kind and they make us better.

My buddy’s dad, Ken, was a living, breathing reminder of my history. His passing has hit me hard on many levels. Naturally, my heart broke for his family first. Then, I just felt sad and old and knew that another page had turned on this story of my life.

Beginning around 1985 until 2000 or so, I spent an uncomfortable amount of time with Ken’s stuff. From his house and boat to, most significantly, his son, I was a sometimes reluctantly welcomed fixture around his life. Being the kids we were, his son and I had some monumental screw ups. When these happened, we knew the consequences would not be good. We, no doubt, frustrated and more likely infuriated Ken on more than one occasion. But, I cannot help but think that on the soft, warm summer evenings, when we would tie up the boat in front of his house at dusk and swim to the beach, he was proud.

Being a dad myself now, I understand that providing opportunities for our kids to grow and test and experience life is a primary duty. Ken understood this, and though it always cost him something, sometimes his time and always his money, he paid the toll for our experiences. It was not cheap. In fact, I believe he may still hold the Washington state record for most boat starters purchased in a six year time frame.

He paid this because he cared. There is no other reason that I can think of. He rarely even used his boat. He effectively gave it to us and in doing so taught us about responsibility, again “consequences” helped with this lesson. But, more importantly, he taught us how to be good fathers. His expectations were high and though I had my own dad, Ken’s example and impact on my life were profound.

These lessons, unfortunately, we usually understand too late. Too late to say the word, “thanks.” My life was defined by these years. I was shaped by sunsets and cold water swims in from the boat. And my gratitude for these years is beyond measure.

So, as I sit in my truck and stare out at the cold waters of my youth, I see and feel the page turned and I understand clearly that the pages turn without asking us. We give no sanction as to when they turn. Life simply moves on. It’s what it does. I see the walkers and boaters and know that the world keeps spinning and the clock ticks forward in spite of my wish to turn it back.

Today, I will be sad. Tomorrow, I will wake up and take my son to school and make my daughter breakfast. Tomorrows come until they don’t. So, I will appreciate the ones that I have and will give what I have to the people I love. And in the cold moments ahead in my life, when I travel warmly back in my mind to sunburnt shoulders and salty skin…and much more, I will say, “thanks, Ken”. It mattered.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]



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