In the course of my life, I’ve made some really bad choices. As a matter of fact, one of my chosen topics-to-ponder of late is just how many of these bad choices, and in how much detail, do I share with my kids. Should I be a walking, talking, cautionary tale, or should I tell stories about a dear friend of mine from high school. That died a horrible, painful death.

I’m still working that out, and I will let you know what I decide. That is, unless they peel themselves away from IFunny and Instagram and read my blog. In which case, it’s a mute point.

I don’t miss standing in line for the bathroom, or checking my nose in the mirror before heading out. I don’t miss long, intense conversations about bad things that happened in high school, endless Scrabble games, or racing to the liquor store at 10:45, (I’ve spent a good part of my life in Massachusetts, liquor stores close at 11.)

I’ve never been able to figure out why I clung to those things for so long. For a little while, it was fun. We felt like we were all part of an inside joke, had stumbled on a way to feel perpetually like a member of the cool crowd. We thought our conversations were unique, our observations hysterical, our taste in clothes and restaurants and drinks and clubs and friends were impeccable.

Looking back, I suppose clothes looked good because all I’d have for dinner was three bites before I got distracted by another trip to the ladies room. Restaurants were amazing because I was only nibbling on food until I could get up and use the ladies room again. Drinks were amazing because they got me drunk, or took the edge off, depending on where I was in the evening. And friends were anyone and everyone that were doing the same stupid things that I was.

So, it’s established, I don’t miss those days. But sometimes, I miss the cigarettes. The standing outside with a stranger. The first puff, the curl of smoke and the smell of sulphur. The way that first drag established the end of a meal. The end of a day. The end of really good sex. Regret, joy, exhaustion… all of these seemed to be well celebrated with a lit Marlboro, a few minutes, and a deep couple of drags.

Now at the end of a day, or at the end of a meal, I go to the pool. We live in a small town, right outside of Boston. There is a huge outdoor pool about a mile away from our home.At 6:30 most nights, I head over. Some nights I bring my daughter. Tonight, I went by myself.

I am probably the only adult in my age group that visits Cunningham Pool without trailing behind a few kids. I know the man at the gate that checks the tags. He hasn’t asked for mine in about five years. Which is good, because I put them away as souvenirs the first day I pick them up.

I smile, make brief conversation about how hot, cold, humid or rainy it’s been. He agrees. We decide that tomorrow it will be more of the same.

Then I step inside. I peel off my clothes, I always wear my swim suit underneath. I drop them on top of my cell phone, on top of my gym bag, on top of my purse. I creep into the water, down the kiddie stairs in the shallow end. I ignore the cute babies. Most of the time, I love cute babies, but at the pool, it’s best not to think about them.

Then I swim. I slip down the length of the pool to the lap lane. First lap, I dolphin dive. I follow the floor of the pool, parallel to the bottom. I look at the pine needles and elastics. I wiggle my stomach and flop my legs like a novice mermaid. I come up, I gulp air, I dive down again. Next lap is free style. I sprint. I stretch my arms long, out of their sockets, I reach far like my coach taught me thirty some years ago. I take few breaths, I slid thru the water like a blade, or a shark, or a competitor. Next lap is back stroke. I leave my goggles on, they are cloudy, but I can make out the sun falling down, and the pine branches above. I pull hard.

I rotate the strokes. I go fast, mostly, except when I’m playing little mermaid under the water. I swim for about an hour, straight thru the adult swim, until about fifteen minutes before the pool closes. Then, I make my way thru the shallow part of the pool, to the stairs. I step out of the water I peel my goggles of my face. I pull the bottoms of my swim suit back to where they belong. I smile at the cute babies. I say hello to the moms I know, and nod at the moms I don’t . I look at the pregnant women with a mixture of awe, recognition and on really hot days, an expression that probably says “thank god I’m done with that.”

I don’t know how I can swim so long, and so fast when I consider all of the horrible things I’ve done to my body over the years. Especially the smoking. I don’t know how I can swim the length of the pool without taking a breath when I consider that for a lifetime my favorite thing to do was to fill my lungs with smoke, hold it like a gift, and then blow it away.

But I do know when I look back on these days, it will be with the knowledge that these days, and these choices are not mistakes.

I can tell my children that truth, and maybe that will hold them for a while.

The other day a friend of mine asked me why I blogged. Since then, I’ve been giving the matter  a lot of thought. I turned over the obvious reasons for a bit. I like being able to get in touch with my “creative side”. I enjoy sharing my own particular view of the world as much as I savor getting glimpses from others when I bump around their pages.

But they really weren’t quite right.

I just like to write stuff down.

For a long, long time, from about the age of eighteen, to somewhere in the middle of my 20’s, I watched my father succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of my memories of him are flavored with the picture of him trying to light a cigarette upside down, squinting at a friend of mine while he searched for their name, looking at me with an expression of total joy, then asking- “Are you the person that brings the ice cream?”

For about twenty years after that time, I did pretty much most of the stupid things people do when they are lost in grief. I drank way too much. I stuffed, snorted and smoked  anything I could get my sad nicotine stained little hands on. I stayed up so late I actually bought curtains for their ability to block out morning. i woke up so late, it was sometimes night. And so I’d start it all again, right after I had my “good morning” cigarette.

I don’t know how I got my life back. These days, I work at the YMCA. I just passed my ACE exam, which means I am now a certified personal trainer. I get up at six in the morning most days, and I don’t have to drink coffee to stay awake. I like coffee, and I like being awake. I know this sounds pretty normal to most people, but to me, even after about ten years of not being an idiot, I still savor not having a hangover. I still relish opening my eyes because I’m happy. And not because I really, really have to pee from the two bottles of wine I drank the night before.

I like going to sleep at night instead of passing out.

I started my blog for my kids. I want them to see our lives, right now, while they are young, the way I see them. I want them to know how very much I love going to the pool with Katy and how much she makes me laugh. I want them to read about how proud I am of Colin, when he catches a snake, or stuffs a ball thru a hoop. I want them to know  I love these days, that I celebrate the chance to be front and center in the audience while they grow up.

I watched my father lose his mind, and for a long time, that took a toll on me. But at the end of the day, it taught me how elusive the moments that make up our lives are, and how sometimes the memories don’t last.

I wish I had more of him than some photographs, a painting and some records. He was the most wonderful, charming, loving man in the whole world. He looked like Robert Redford. He laughed with his eyes. He loved me and for a long, long time he made me feel like there was nothing wrong in my life he couldn’t fix. That other person he became was just a man that taught me what I needed to know. It just took me a while to figure it out.

I don’t know if I’ll get Altzheimer’s. But I do know that someday, I’m going to die. And I really like to write stuff down.

I am blessed to be living a life that has contained so many memories worth saving.