Photo by John Arthur
Photo by John Arthur
My brother John stopped by the old Fort Ord (California) pool the other day and took these pictures.
I’m the youngest of 7, and we all swam in this pool for many years. It was one of our favorite places to be. The price was right, just show them our military ID card or recite my dad’s RA number and in we’d go.
My brother George, gone 2 years now, taught me to swim in this pool. Another brother took pleasure in dunking me until I cried, only to be rescued by yet another of my siblings. My sister Mary, gone 3 years, would let me piggy back her, wrapping my arms around her neck and kicking my feet behind us as if I was helping swim the length of the Olympic-sized pool. When we’d reach the deep end, I knew I could trust her not to leave me.
I remember how my sister Martha and I would walk home in the dark, wet hair and sometimes wet bathing suits underneath our clothes, still smelling of chlorine. Whenever we’d get to this certain part of the post that was extra dark and scary we’d pray out loud, “Our father, who art in Heaven…” and when we got to the part “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil” we’d start running and screaming until we reached the light.
When the pool water was on the cool side, my best friend (of over 45 years now) and I would leave the water to go play in the never-ending hot showers. When we warmed up we’d go jump back in the pool and then do it all over again.
I can still see, hear and smell the pool in my mind so clearly. Photos of the way it is now startle me. It’s like seeing an old friend get beat up and they can’t get up, can’t recover from the blows, so they just give in and give up.
But I won’t allow these recent images to steal the years of joy that was had inside that old building. And neither will the thousands of soldiers who flirted with their girlfriends and boyfriends, the husbands and wives with their children who splashed in its waters and sunned themselves in the warmth of the (sometimes) sunny patio. No amount of graffiti, paintball splats and carnage will ever erase the years of memories of my happy place, a place where our family will forever be complete.