I tugged Jerry away, and we walked back over to the stretching area. Ken and Matthew arrived; they both looked ragged. “What happened to you two?” I hollered over to them as they approach us.
“Too many video games. Not enough time. No sleep…” Ken said as he dropped to the floor laying on his stomach with his arms spread out.
Matthew looked a smidge better than Ken, but only a smidge. “I got some sleep, but this one,” Matthew thumbed towards the dead Ken, “said it would be fun, and that I’m no fun. I proved him wrong, but I’m severely paying for it today. You don’t look so well either, Bro.”
“Yeah long night. I’ll explain another day,” I cut that topic short.
“Yeah, there is some new news…but I won’t spill the beans,” Jerry started his statement strong, but regretted saying anything after.
“Typical Jerry. Setting up for something big and crushing expectations,” Ken said muffled from the ground.
In response, Jerry pretended to stomp on Ken’s shoulder blades; instead, Jerry only slightly stepping on Ken’s back as our teammates came onto the deck.
“Looks like Ken’s day is off to a great start,” Tom, a lower lane teammate, chimed in, “are you portraying how Coach will be treating us today?”
“I hope not,” Ken and Jerry answered collectively.
“Everyone here?” I scanned the faces and they all nodded in agreement, “Good. Lets begin stretching.”
Just as we were finishing up a loud giggle escaped from Coach’s office. All heads turned towards the door, just as Little Lily came sprinting out of the door; only to fall over and face plant onto the deck. I quickly scrambled up to go to her, but Coach beat me to her. He must have heard the sudden yelp of pain, because Coach darted out of the office to scoop up Lily; she looked so small against Coach’s massive body.
He started towards us, all the soft whispers began, ‘Who is that?’ and ‘Why does Coach have a small girl in his arms?’ More of the same comments were continued to be whispered among them, up until Coach’s ears were in range.
“I can assume all of you can see the little girl in my arms?” Coach said point blank and no hesitation.
Looking around I just saw dumbfounded expressions or slight nods. “Say hello, Lily. These swimmers here,” looking at us, “will be your new uncles. Especially since you will be spending a lot of your time around them, you should just see them as your family.”
Lily’s head slowly lifted and looked around to the new faces. She did not look thrilled. Then her eyes found mine, she scrambled down out of Coach’s arms and came to stand by me. I guess our previous meeting was forgotten. She grabbed at my hand and looked up at me. “Uncle…what’s your name?”
She was so small looking up at me; her small hand was swimming in mine. I squatted down to her level, “I’m Uncle George.”
Lily smiled and jumped up and wrapped her small arms around my neck giving me a tight squeeze. I stood up while cradling her; her small body relaxed in my arms.
“Once again, George has been selected as someone’s’ favorite,” Jerry snickered, while other teammates chimed into the laughter. “Dude, do you every get tired of being the ‘chosen one’?”
With Lily still hugging me, “Nope I’m good with being the one for her. I think I found my new favorite person.” I hugged Lily back.
“Okay, okay, Lily,” Coach stepped towards me and the latched on Lily, ” Your Uncle George needs to lead the team in warm-up. Come back to me,” he said reaching out to pry off the clinging body.
“Nope. I want my Uncle!” Lily said into my shoulder as her arms clung tighter. She popped her head up and looked at me. “I love you Uncle George,” she kissed me on the cheek and snuggled back into my arms.
I must have been smiling because everyone erupted with a sarcastic, ‘Awwwww.’
“Make fun all you want, but I’m good.” I was quite content with being Lily’s new person in her brand new world. “Lily, as much as I would like to stay with you I do need to do as your Dad said,” I pull back from her. Her eyes are screaming a ‘no.’ “He is counting on me to be a leader. How about you get down and be the leader to all your Uncles. You will stand with your dad behind each lane and tell us one by one to ‘Go’! Do you think you are big enough for the job?”
As I finished speaking, Lily’s eyes lit up with excitement; she almost jumped down out of my arms. She ran over to her dad and tugged his arm until he moved behind my lane. “Okay Uncle George, Go!” she giggled as she spoke.
Getting an approving nod from Coach, and following her command I jumped into the pool to begin my warm-up. I could hear splashes of other teammates jumping in the pool. I stopped a distance away, and looked back to the wall. Lily was squirming with joy as she pointed at the other swimmers, and then she would giggle as they jumped at her command. Coach was standing tall behind her. Jerry was slowly catching up to me, so I turned back around to continue my warm-up. Feeling happy that I was able to include Lily into the world of swimming.