Early in Awkward Uncle's swim career, when he was a green, young high school swimmer just learning to do that amazing flipping thing they do in the water when they get to the wall, we, his loyal spectators, were a little green and young too. We weren't quite sure how things went or what our roles as supporters really entailed; thus, our first Special Olympics or 2 (maybe 3, we are slow learners), we would spent the entire Saturday of the Special Olympics on the bleachers of the indoor pool. The entire day. Oh sure, there were bathroom breaks and sometimes one of us would go in search of food, but mostly, we would just sit there, slowly melting in the June/pool humidity, eagerly staring at the doorway for any sign of Awkward Uncle little blond head. This is a relatively insane plan, but for all the sweating and swearing that happened, it was actually a great introduction to the magic of the Special Olympics. I can not tell you how many times we got to witness those wonderful moments when someone swimming dead-last finally reaches the wall and the crowd erupts into wild Micheal-Phelps-level cheering or the swimmers smile and congratulate each other in such true and happy sportsmanship that you wish they could teach lessons to the "real Olympians." We would routinely burst into tears at the sheer magic of it all. Or we were just really hot and tired of sitting there, but I like to think that those early years were necessary to really get us aware of how special the Special Olympics really are.
About 3 years in, Awkward Uncle's coach finally took pity on us and started telling us what time the races were going to be. Probably could have figured this out ourselves, as the times are taped to the wall in the prep-area where the swimmers wait, but, like I said, we are kinda slow learners. After that, we would breeze in about a half-hour before his races, cheer wildly, and hang out for his medal presentation, before heading over to the prep-area for slightly damp hugs and 800 pictures. Then, we would wander around the rest of the Special Olympics (which was a whole other revelation and education, with crying jags aplenty) before his next race. There was one year that he swan on a Friday (rare), and we ended up seeing him randomly outside of a cookout already wearing a gold medal. Didn't really know what to do with ourselves that year. But most years, things were down to a science of folks meeting here and there (even in the years before we had cell phones!), scheduled food breaks, a visit to the weight-lifting because that is just awesome to watch, and everything would go off smoothly. Awkwardly, no doubt, but fairly smoothly. And then, I started having children.
Ah, the Supers. Yes, even the brief half-hour sittings in the pool are a struggle for them. Oh, it's easy enough when they are babies, especially because there are so many extra adults to hold them, but then they learn to move and they simply don't understand why they can't move right into that beautiful, cool, tempting pool. Even when they manage to avoid temptation and remain on the bleachers, it isn't like they sit still. No, they crawl up the bleachers. They crawl down the bleachers. They throw stuff under the bleachers. They play tag on the bleachers. And they have no concern that people around them might be, oh, I don't know, trying to watch the swim meets. No, they just kinda fall on people. And they have the vaguest idea that the swimmer we are pointing at and shouting at is their uncle; they kinda wave towards him and then resume falling on people we don't know. And they always pick the crabbiest, scariest looking person to do this to.
Like this year. So, this year, all three of the Supers are mobile, and Super Baby is the worst. She just plows through crowds like she is a tiny pig-tailed little tank. We find a spot and all is well for like 5 minutes as they try to figure out how to get over the railing and into the pool. When they tire of that, they start to wiggle. And wiggle right into the lady to our left who is trying to film her son with her iPhone while typing an email with her iPad. Needless to say, that doesn't go according to plan and the death glares she is shooting me and Awkward Grandma should really have an app of their own; they are totally deadly. We decide to move. And then, Super Toddler decides that Grandpa needs to wear his hat:
And it was well! Awkward Uncle and his relay team came 3rd, after a tight and amazing finish by their anchor (I love swim terms, so nautical!). Plus, we were even close enough this year for some on-site photos that weren't blurry!
Awkward Uncle, post-race. Look how close he is!
Peek-a-Boo! Seriously, he has never been this close to us, pool-side.
Post-medal-ceremony wave to his fans.
It was a great race, but naturally, the most awkward moment of the day came immediately afterward. So, we are looking for Awkward Uncle and can't find him. I call his cell phone and say, "where you at?" and this follows:
Awkward Uncle: I am sitting by the basketball game, eating lunch.
Me: Really? But that is right where we are.
Awkward Uncle: Yep.
Awkward Grandma: I don't see him.
Me: Well, he is right over here somewhere. Eating.
Super Toddler: Food!
Awkward Dad: Not yet.
Awkward Grandma: But that guy is wearing glasses.
*Awkward Uncle, now bespeckled , waves at us.*
Awkward Uncle: Hi.
Awkward Grandma: Where did you get those glasses?
Awkward Uncle: Health fair.
Awkward Grandma: What does that mean?
Non-awkward Coach: We went to a health fair yesterday for fun and they tested his eyes and it turns out that he needs glasses so the Lions Club got him glasses for free.
Awkward Uncle: Told you. Health fair.
Never not awkward around here! Congrats to Awkward Uncle on his bronze medal! And his new glasses.....