Back when I was swimming the entire length of the Columbia River, my daughter Rowan was two years old (and my daughter Celilo was not yet born).
I would come back from the Columbia on the odd weekend, spent and exhausted, but often in time to put Rowan to bed. I remember my shoulders squeezing and aching as I rubbed her back, willing her to drop off to sleep.
Over a decade later, I am long ago divorced, a Dad who (still) sees his kids on weekends.
These days, my daughters are more interested in hot-tubbing with their friends than hanging with me.
But the push-pull feels familiar: missing my kids as I stroke through some chilly, dirty waterway during the week, and then meeting up with them for a slice of weekend.
I am afraid I don't really know how their school weeks feel to them--I miss the everyday contact with my kids that would let me glimpse this--and I imagine my quotidian tangos with the river are a mystery to them.
I do my best to interview my kids about their weekday rhythms, but they grow tired of my questions. It's the weekend, after all: they don't want to talk about school, they want to visit bakeries and water parks, and to play with their friends.
When they ask me what I am up to I offer up an anecdote or two about swimming and the family and leave it at that. Our best swimming conversations come after they steal my phone and go through my photos. There they glimpse the raw materials for the galleries of photos I share with the world.
I am not complaining. Whatever my life looks like now, I co-created it. I am responsible for how it feels. I love my kids, and I get what I get, and I make the best of it.
Do I wish I saw my kids more? Yes. Do I wish we knew more about the shapes of each other's everyday lives? Of course. Do I dwell on this? Sometimes. But I am trying NOT to water depression and despair (confronting contaminated rivers takes care of that for me).
I am trying to be in my life--as it is--and be okay with it. To let go of the nagging sense that I should to be sad all the time about the way my life shook out. To accept that I am a sometime swimmer, and a sometime Dad. To accept that, right now, this is it, this is the deal, this is me.