The signing day that wasn’t

Sallie Herndon, left, prepares on the block for an event during a meet in September.


National signing day was earlier this week, the day when high school athletes across the country make their commitments to college programs official. It is a happy day, a day to celebrate the future.

It would have been my daughter’s signing day, too, had she wanted it to be.

She has been recruited by a few swimming programs, schools where I’m sure she would have gotten a good education and had a great competitive experience. She’s been swimming competitively since she was 9 years old, literally growing up in goggles. She has put a ton of work into it, getting up early in the mornings before school to practice and then hitting the pool again in the afternoons, chasing the black line.

Ultimately her goal had been to swim in college. But now that time is here and she has chosen a different path. And I have to admit it makes me a little sad to see her days as a competitive swimmer come to an end.

But this isn’t about me.

Twenty hours a week in a pool is a lot, especially when you’ve done it your whole life. Who wouldn’t want to schedule their classes after 10 and sleep in until 9:30? Who wouldn’t want to spend their afternoons hanging out with friends instead of pushing yourself through thresholds? Who wouldn’t want to enjoy being a regular college student?

But because I know it was once her goal to compete in college, because I know how hard she’s worked at this sport for most of her life, it’s still sad to see her give it up – even though it’s her choice.

But it’s more than that. Part of it this is about me.

Part of it is that I won’t get to watch her swim anymore, won’t get to see those powerful flip turns and streamlines that I have so enjoyed watching all these years.

Part of it is that I won’t get to see the other parents in our swim club as much now that it’s over. We have spent a lot of time together over the last decade on pool decks and in natatorium bleachers and in the lobbies of hotels. They have become our extended family, and I will miss it when we don’t see them as often.

And part of it is that I know she’s leaving, and she’s the last one. It was difficult to leave our oldest daughter at college as a freshman a couple years ago. But when my wife and I leave Sallie in Auburn in August, we know that both their bedrooms will now be empty when we come home.

The house will be awfully quiet. We won’t have much use for the dining room table. There will be more free weekends without the road trips to Huntsville and Atlanta and Nashville.

I know we will find ways to fill them. There are more places for my wife and I to visit, more wine and bourbon to be tasted, more varieties of oysters to try. There is a lonely set of golf clubs in the garage with which I should reacquaint myself. There is a boat on the lift waiting for its motor to be fixed, and rotten boards on the pier waiting to be replaced. There is another novel waiting to be written. There is the first one on my jump drive, waiting for me to do something with it.

But I will miss being a swim parent, and now that signing day has come and gone, the end of those days is closer. I will miss being a parent with a child under his roof. I know these thoughts are nothing new. Every parent has them when the nest is emptied, I’m sure.

But this was about me. And now that it’s off my chest, it isn’t any more.

Categories: Mystery Punch

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