LAST BUT NOT LEAST By Rosemary Sullivan
Just recently, a weekend in April on the Caribbean island of Nevis, I met a fellow New Yorker. There are so few of us who were actually born in the city. Sonia was lithe and supple, young, in a very young looking body.
Sonia finished the yearly two and a half mile swim between the sister islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in 3 hours and 45 minutes. Kayaks tried to persuade her to hop aboard. The Coast Guard even pulled alongside and told her how worried her husband was pacing back and forth on the beach. Folks pleaded with her to give up. Sonia is a finisher. She started something and she was going to finish. Sonia is a TRUE New Yorker.
Sonia came in last. She finished the race. “The waves are my friends” she gaily announced on getting out of the water on Nevis - last but not least. Later on the beach chair, Sonia described to me how the water was clear all the way to the bottom. She saw so many fish – “the cutest star fish and lots of little ones.” “There is a huge starfish just sitting on the bottom right out by the sailboat with the blue stripe”, she pointed out towards the anchored boats in Oualie Bay.
She told me to check out the Tri Star Facebook for more of the story. How the current went this way and that and how some swimmers got turned around. The eight year old and the eighty one year old finishers made it in a pretty straight line. There was an 11 year old and a 16 year old among the first to step on the shore.
This year was different, for the first time the swim started on St. Kitts and ended on Nevis. I had lots of time to look out at the horizon waiting to see bobbing heads to reflect on swims past.
One swim in particular. It was 6 years ago and three of my friends were training for the swim together. On Fridays when we would meet for lunch, Joan, Marie and Marlene would don their goggles, nose clips and assundry paraphernalia and head out for serious laps while the rest of us bobbed and counted heads as they went out and came back over the mile to the Four Seasons pier.
I would often accompany Joan at Gallows Beach and bob while she did laps. Of course our swim always included a beach cleanup. So if I got bored bobbing in the turquoise sea, I could always grap a garbage bag and srart walking the beach, as long as I kept my eye on Joan in the sea.
I will never forget the day of the race –the three goddesses in their suits and caps making preparations. How beautiful, how radiant they were and they were not shaking because it was cold….82 degrees and the sun was shining. Mandy friends came down and they had a wonderful send off.
Some folks went over to meet them on the other side in various boats from the Oualie pier. I stayed on Nevis and nervously waited to hear.
All three of them made it with the cumulative age over 200 years. They were no spring chickens, their lithe and supple bodies already showing the wrinkles of wisdom. All three of them are my heroines forever.
Sonia from New York only started swimming at 55. Swimming agrees with her as her youthful body attests. Sonia also has a smile that dazzles, a line of gab that never stops and an open heart that helped me feel I now have another friend who made it.
None of us will cheat death. It is waiting for us all, even New Yorkers with all their bravado. Now it has claimed our southern gal Joan and our crusty Maine gal from Darmipasquit Harbor, Marie. Hurrah for Marlene who keeps doing her laps at Friday lunch bunch while I bob and keep watch. Hurrah for Sonia. Hurrah for us all, swimming or bobbing for all our lives are worth in this beautiful Caribbean Sea.