I was walking out from the MIT natatorium on a cold, windy Friday night rushing towards my mother’s Rolls Royce. My brown hair was turning into tiny icicles. It was seventeen degrees outside but the wind made it feel like negative eleven. My equipment bag was already starting to freeze and my hands felt like they were going to fall off. I couldn’t wait to get home. I threw my bags into the trunk and got into the passenger seat of the car.
“How was practice, Gavin?” my mother asked me.
It was a genuine question but I’ve heard enough times so that it got to the point that it was a part of my routine.
“It was fine,” I responded.
She started the car and a blast of warm air rushed towards me as I reached to grab my protein bars out of my pockets. We got on Route 3 and drove down Memorial Drive. I snarfed down a couple mouthfuls of the protein bars and chugged down half a bottle of muscle milk. I finished eating and put the wrappers back into my swim bag. I leaned on the car door, in a trance. I closed my eyes, listened to the radio and dozed off.
“Gavin. Gavin, wake up. We’re home,” my mom told me as she was shaking my shoulder.
Astonished we got home so fast I got out of the car and stumbled over to the trunk and pressed the button so I could get my bags. It was frozen. I rubbed it with my sweatshirt for a while and the ice melted away. The trunk door finally opened. I got upstairs and put my suit to dry, brushed my teeth and plopped onto my bed. I pulled the covers on me and made sure my alarm was set for four forty the next morning. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the one time of day I could have some rest.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! I opened my eyes and slammed my fist down on my alarm clock. The alarm clock stopped beeping and I climbed out of bed. I wasn’t a morning person. I changed into my bathing suit and packed my bag. I went downstairs and ate a bowl of my favorite cereal. I waited by the front door for my carpool driver to arrive. My mother and father were still upstairs sleeping. A bright light shone onto the house as the car pulled in and I loaded the stuff into their car, locking the house door behind me.
Once again, we arrived at the pool and I got ready as my coach told us the set. I begrudgingly hopped into the pool. It felt like tiny icicles were piercing my skin as I started to swim, trying to warm up. For the next two hours, I tried my best. I looked up to coach Tim. He kept me motivated to reach my goals of racing Nathan Adrian once the world record holder in the fifty-meter freestyle.
Once practice was over I took a long shower. The water felt like it was embracing me in a big warm hug. I stood under the showerhead until the once scalding water was no longer warm. I got ready and went to my mom’s car.
“Hey, sweetie. Are you tired?” she asked.
“I’m okay. The workout wasn’t that hard.”
“Well, I hope your hungry because we’re going to your grandparent's house,” she told me.
Whenever I have to stay over at their house, she reminisces and tells me about all the adventures she had when she was my age. I was so happy when my mom told me. I had a special relationship with my grandma. She’s the best grandma in the world.
Shortly we pulled into their driveway. It was obvious their house was the oldest one on the street. Her’s was the only Cape Cod cottage on the block. We went inside. We were met with open arms and a great warm gentle smile. The sun coming through the windows gave the room a golden appearance. She gave us tuna fish sandwiches with lots of relish and lettuce. She piled lot’s of potato chips on my plate and placed a tall glass of milk in front of my plate.
“Scott!” grandma called, “Come down! Jane and Gavin are here!”
Grandpa Scott came stumbling down the stairs, into the kitchen, to come meet us.
“Hey, Gavin,” he greeted me then turned to my mom, “How’s my little girl?”
“I’m fine dad,” mom answered.
We all sat down and ate the scrumptious sandwiches Grandma prepared. After we ate we sat there and talked for a little bit.
“Gavin, you need to eat more,” grandma insisted, “You’re too skinny.”
After I played a game of chess with Grandma. She always has the best brownies that she bakes whenever we come over. The aroma of chocolate filled the air. I was eating one of the big brownies with another glass of milk. Then the clock on the wall started chiming. It was two o’clock. My mom looked up from her book.
“We better get going, Gavin,” my mother suggested, “It’s already two o’clock.”
“Alright,” I sighed in defeat, “Just let me finish this game with grandma first.”
We waved goodbye to her and Grandpa Scott and drove away.
A few months later I was at a high school team swim practice when coach Tim told me to get out of the pool and come into the coaches office. A thousand thoughts were running through my mind as I walked over; Was I in trouble? Did I do one arm butterfly during the two-hundreds? Would I have to stay after practice and do more sets?
When I walked into the office, a gush of cold air rushed towards me and it sent chills down my back. I glanced at my arm and it was covered in goosebumps.
“Gavin, your mother is on the phone,” Tim informed me. “It’s important.”
As I took the phone I noticed he had a sad look on his face. It was almost as if something bad had happened. I hesitated before saying hello. I was nervous.
“Gavin?” my mother asked in a hushed voice. “Sweetie, are you there?”
“Yes,” I responded.
“There has been an incident. You know Grandma Kathy, right?”
“Yeah,” I wearily responded.
“Well, this morning she went to get a blood test and she was diagnosed with Leukemia.”
I wouldn’t believe it.
I took a step back from the phone and zoned out for a minute.
As I was staring into space Tim grabbed my arm, “Gavin, your mother is waiting for you outside.”
I got my stuff and rushed through getting changed and bolted out, towards the car. We drove towards Massachusetts General Hospital. The nurses directed us towards room, C-325. There were other people rushing around us, but I didn’t pay any attention to them. My focus was directed towards getting to grandma.
Eventually, we arrived and quietly slipped in. Without making the tiniest noise, so grandma wouldn’t wake up, we went up to the edge of her bed. She was lying there almost unconscious.
“Grandma,” I whispered, “Can you hear me? Are you alright?”
“Gavin?” she asked, “Is that you?”
“Yes, I’m here and my mom is too,” I told her.
Everything went silent for a while. My mom was holding grandma’s hand. I was standing next to the bed listening to the repetitive beeping of the heart rate monitor. The doctors told us she has a few weeks to live. The only way we could improve the situation is if we pay for chemotherapy.
My mom was wondering how we would be able to pay for the treatment when my dad walked in.
“Krissy,” he sighed, “How is she?”
My mom was already on the verge of tears. My dad’s question was the tipping point. She burst into tears. He comforted her and let her know that he was there for her.
She was overwhelmed with stress.
The next morning I woke up in my bed again. I didn’t have the strength to get up and go to the pool.
For the next few hours, I lied there pondering of what Grandma would have wanted. I realized that she wouldn’t have wanted me lying there doing nothing just because she got sick.
I had a brilliant idea.
I got up and got my swim bag. For the next month, I would train like a champion.
A few weeks went by and I was going to see grandma for the last time that trip. I wanted her to see me succeed. I trained so hard to make her proud. Sadly, she wouldn’t live to see it.
When we reached the room I was scared to look in. I tried to enter but the doctors hushed me out. This upset us because we wanted to see grandma.
My dad started arguing with a nurse who was passing by when a doctor stepped out of the room.
“I bring good news,” the doctor informed us, “She has fought hard and now has another month left.”
My mom hugged my dad and started crying. However, this time these tears were tears of joy. I was delighted. I now knew what I had to do. I said goodbye to my parents and grandma then got in my car and drove to the pool.
A few weeks went by and I just came home, on a Sunday evening, from the Olympic trials meet in Indianapolis. I went there with coach Tim. I was awaiting a call from the United States of America Swimming Association for the next few days.
Later on, towards the middle of the week, I was visiting my grandma when my phone started ringing. I stepped out into the hallway. The call was from the U.S.A. Swimming Association.
I nervously answered the call and spoke into the phone, “Hello?”
“Is this Gavin Matthews,” an associate blandly asked.
“Yes,” I responded, “That’s me.”
“We are calling to inform you that you will be representing the United States of America national swim team at the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics.”
My heart skipped a beat.
“Hello? Mr.Matthews are you still there?”
“Uh, yeah,” I stuttered, “I’m still here.”
“Well, we will look forward to seeing you in Beijing.” The associate congratulated me.
I hung up the phone and did a little victory dance down the hall.
This was my chance.
Eventually, I was on a plane to Beijing. I was excited but nervous at the same time. If I mess this race up my grandma will die. I tried to relax when a man brushed past me on his way to the lavatory. I didn’t get a good look at his face but before he came back I nodded off.
“Please fasten your seatbelts. We will be landing in three minutes,” the pilot said.
I woke up and we were landing. I got my bag and took a taxi to my hotel. I got a good night’s sleep and prepared myself for the 50-meter freestyle.
The next day I woke up and had a big breakfast. The hotel manager brought it up to my room. He lifted the lid and the aroma of fresh pancakes, bacon, and eggs filled the air. I ate all of the food and washed it down with a tall glass of milk. I got dressed and took the taxi to the pool.
I stepped onto the swim deck in my tech-suit and my U.S. swim cap. I made it. I was waiting in my room until my event was called. I stepped out onto the deck and knew that grandma was watching from her hospital bed, cheering me on.
The official blew his whistle and I stepped up to the starting block. I looked over at my competitors and saw Nathan Adrian in the lane beside me. My knees started buckling.
“Good luck,” Nathan Adrian stretched out his hand.
I shook his hand and said good luck to him as well. The official started the electronic starter and we all dove in. The announcers in the booth were narrating the swim.
“The newcomer, Gavin Matthew, is right next to Nathan Adrian. Will he beat Nathan? They are coming towards the end of their race now and Nathan is pulling ahead.” The announcer announced.
As Nathan started to pull ahead, I saw grandma’s chance at survival slipping away. I thought about grandma and said to myself, I’m doing this for grandma. I put all of my strength into my arms and sprinted past Nathan barely out touching him and taking home the gold medal.
In the lane over Nathan was breathing heavily and I went over to him and reached out, “Good swim. You almost had me back there.”
“Nice job, Gavin,” he congratulated, “You just beat me at the end.”
I was extremely happy. In the locker room afterward, Nathan walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to hang out later. I immediately answered with a big yes.
The next day we played pool and went out to a bar, although I couldn’t have any alcohol. That night I took a plane back home and, with money that I received for interviews and endorsements, paid for my grandma’s chemotherapy treatments. Those last few days were a blur for me.
I arrived at the hospital and sat next to my grandma and she mustered up the strength to tell me one thing before she went into chemotherapy.
“I’m so proud of you.”
All was well and once again I was happy with my family. Overall, I was happy for one reason.
I was successful.