Last week I was sent an email to see if Pudding would like to go swimming with Miss Arizona.
Pudding + swimming = yes. The kid loves water.
Then I quickly checked with the coordinator for details. It turns out there was going to be “swim buddies” and I wouldn’t have to get into the water. Phew. I have healthy self-esteem, but I also have an unhealthy appetite for sweets, and I’m not exactly swimsuit ready. I’m especially not in a swimsuit next to a Miss America contestant ready! 🙂
The birthday boy stayed at home with his grandparents, so I just got to sit back and watch. And because for once I wasn’t juggling two kids with very different sensory needs, I got to really see it. How different she is in the water. It isn’t just that she is more attentive, and coordinated, it isn’t just that she is more social…it is that she is where she belongs.
She is at peace.
She is right.
I watched her play games, follow directions, and swim races. I got to watch her be a regular kid, doing ordinary kid things with some other extraordinary children, and the wonderful volunteers who truly care.
Really though, it was the smile on her face that did me in. It made me curse my lack of scales and fishy tail. That smile was luring me to the water to join her. Where she belongs. Because on dry land she doesn’t seem to fit in.
She is disturbed by the war on her senses.
She feels all wrong.
She is the fish out of water. No wonder she feels the call of the sea.
If I’d have brought my costume, I’d have dived in to be with her. I wouldn’t have cared about being juxtaposed with a beauty queen, my mermaid was so bewitching I thought of nothing but her radiant smile.
As it was, I didn’t have my costume with me, and I sat at the poolside until I was joined by a man I’d never met. He introduced himself as Bob Pizzano, the man behind the water safety program that responsible for this event and Pudding’s trip to the pool with her S.M.I.L.E. program. We chatted about the amazing new sprayground that will open in May, where kids of all abilities with a love of the water will be able to play side by side. We discussed the goals of their program, and what they had already achieved. Lastly we talked about the dark side of the attraction to water that some kids like Pudding have. His own developmentally delayed son, Joey, tragically drowned, and the family subsequently created The Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund,a foundation to honour his life, improve the lives of other special needs children and their families, and help prevent such tragedies from happening again.
I was at a loss for words to express both my sorrow at his loss, and the gratitude I felt for his dedication to families like ours. In the end he was called away to talk to somebody much more important, but the last thing he spoke of was how much he had enjoyed seeing my girl’s smile. Only this morning did I find these words on his foundation’s site:
Joey had a bright smile, hearty laugh and a love of life that touched many people’s lives. Joey loved his family, he loved the water and he loved to swim. The Pizzano family wanted to celebrate Joey’s life through the foundation in hopes that his smile would be seen through the faces of other children with disabilities enjoying the water and their families.
I’m still at a loss for words, so I’ll leave it to the mermaid’s smile. This one is for you, Mr. Pizzano: