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The Story of How My Father Learned to Swim  

Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal recalls a time before her father had Parkinson’s disease.

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2 min read
Maracas Bay, Port of Spain. Sangeeta’s father would take her here to swim every weekend. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease sometime in 2008.  The disease has impacted his independence and vibrancy. Quite negatively.

I write these posts not just to share how we deal with the many demands that Parkinson’s disease puts on us, but also to create a comparison – between the vibrant man, with a zest-for-life he was, to the less vibrant man he is now. And I like to do this by sharing stories.

So here is a story he told us about how he learnt to swim.

I don’t know when and how my father learnt to swim.

However, I do remember my father taking us to the West India Club or Maracas Bay (Port-of-Spain) every weekend to swim. He loved to swim and he wanted us to love it too.

Weekend swimming was his dedicated time with his four children. We were all enrolled for swimming classes. I even got a certificate stating that I was “Proficient in Free Style Swimming: Can Hold Breath Under Water” :-)

We were encouraged to paddle out to sea and use the waves to propel us to shore, all the while, thrashing our arms and legs to stay afloat.

When we asked our father how he learnt to swim, this is the story he told us.

When I was born, the nurse had to hold me upside-down, as they do for all babies, to ensure that I cried. But this nurse was not as experienced as the nurses you all had when you were born. I was slippery. As she held me by my ankles, head down, I slipped out of her hands. The nurse gasped in fear and looked down, dreading what she had done. Luckily, there was a tub of water where I fell. And lo and behold! There I was swimming in the tub! I learned to swim on Day Zero.

As children, we believed this story till we were nearly teenagers. And we each kept the truth of this tale from our younger siblings and cousins, so as not to destroy my father’s fun at repeating it to any child who would listen, including his grandchildren.

And now you dear reader, you have joined the group that knows how my father learnt to swim on Day Zero.

(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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