Monday, September 22, 2014

Being Joe's Daughter

My Dad continued to dribble a basketball down the street in Southern California, and like magic, boys in the neighborhood would yell at their parents, “I'm going with Joe down to the school.” They'd follow him like a pied piper to the local junior high.

I would have played with them and kicked some boy butt back then, but the basketball was too big for my 7-year old, slender girl hands, which annoyed me. Never one to pout, I rode off by myself on my hot pink Schwinn Sting Ray bicycle all over the school grounds. My Daddy was playing pick up basketball and I was daydreaming of my world and how its splendors laid out. Confidence abounded. And a cute smile. (Again, I inherited it!)

I thought my handsome Father looked like movie star.

I may have been irrelevant for real basketball, but my Father enjoyed having me on his team for pool basketball. He'd made a cool poolside basketball hoop by pouring concrete in a wood box as a base for the hoop. It was about 3' high, sitting between the shallow end and deep end. Our family's version of swimming pool basketball was gangsta.' I fit right in, I was always the smallest and usually the only girl.

Author Patricia Loya at age 52
sitting in a horse water trough
I was 8, scrappy and strong in the water. I took hits and came back hard and crushed everyone. I was my Father's kid in the pool. I'd quietly lurk swimming around and grab the ball from unsuspecting strong boys, young men and Dads alike, only to tuck it in my left arm and forcefully use my right arm and legs to swim down deep to the bottom. No one knowing where it was. I submerged where I could shoot the ball to my Dad, for the point. Yeah, he didn't mind. Smile, all these years later.

I swam uncountable miles, doing freestyle, backstroke (my favorite) and breast stroke laps in our pool. I hated the butterfly but did it. I swam deep, low, skimming the pool bottom, touching the drain, the lights. I broke a tooth in that pool doing somersaults in the shallow end, too close to the concrete steps, and and hit them. Bring it on, baby.

My Father Joseph Cardella gave me the gift of spending many, many nights sitting in a patio chair beside the pool teaching me how to dive on our springboard diving board. Big dives. Back dive, inward, reverse, twist, forward somersaults, tuck, back somersaults, tuck, pike.

He drank Pabst beer, Schlitz beer on quiet Southern California nights, beside the lovely ambiance of a beautifully lit pool, a daughter on a diving board with a lot of spring. I thought I was a diving diva. At least I knew my Dad thought so.

I had swimmers' legs. My thighs and calves had nice sweet muscles. I was voted prettiest legs at my junior high, which I attribute to swimming specifically and in general athletics, all stuff from my Dad.

My only athletic-related memory I have of my Mother, my independent, artistic, bohemian Mother, is from a story my dear Aunt Jinny shared with me, some fifteen years after my Mother had died. My Uncle Ev, my Mother's only brother, and my Aunt Jinny, my Mother's Sister-in-Law from Illinois were visiting my husband and I in Silverado, California. They were kindly sharing stories about my Mother - who I still missed much. My Aunt Jinny said that once when my Mother came and watched me swim in a competition, my Mother told her, “That may have been Joe's daughter down there in that pool, but the girl wearing the big hoop earrings while she swam, was my daughter.” I love that story.

Smile. Yeah. Feel good stuff.

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