a man dives into the ocean water and right behind him his oxygen tanks dives in as well

A COPD Fantasy

I woke up with my favorite FM radio station blasting great music. The DJ said, “Good morning, America. It’s gonna be a hot one – mid to upper 90’s!” And then he added, “...a beach day!”

A day at the beach

I hadn’t been to the beach this summer yet for a number of reasons. Crowds, my energy – but now, things were perfect. My lung transplant now let me do all those wonderful things I used to do before I was diagnosed with COPD – like going to the beach!

I packed some food, a chair, and a beach umbrella and hopped into my convertible Porsche Carrera. Backed out of my driveway, put the top down, and headed for the Jersey Turnpike. The breeze in a convertible, even in New Jersey, is just wonderful. The air is all around and gets caught up in your hair.

I was trying to keep the speed limit, but it was early morning and the traffic had not yet begun to get heavy. So, I will deny I ever said this but, I watched as the speedometer crept up slowly and ran over the road’s speed limit.

My favorite beach in New Jersey

The engine purred and then roared just slightly.

Folks in less-attentive cars beeped and waved and, in turn, I did the same. There were smiles on all their faces because it was a perfect day. There are so many beautiful beaches in New Jersey (although they call the whole kit and caboodle – “the shore.”) The one I enjoy most is a little further down the shore than most northern N.J. or NYC folks are willing to go. But I refuse to give up its location simply because it’s the best one.

That said, if you’ve ever driven a Porsche, you know it’s no trouble to drive long trips – not ever!

The ocean waves were perfect

My exit came up. I downshifted and took the turn at a reasonably slow speed. I drove down the town’s Main Street which led directly to the boardwalk.

My perfect day just got more perfect-er, when I spotted a parking spot right next to the boardwalk. I unloaded chair, umbrella, and cooler and headed into the sand. The day was getting better (if possible) with each and every minute. The ocean waves were perfect. There was a slightly cool on-shore breeze and I was one of maybe 20 people. We had the place to ourselves – for now!

I set up my chair and umbrella and began to walk to the water.

That first dive

I walked to the shore and into the ocean water up to my ankles. There was still a chill in the ocean temperature but it was mostly just enough to wake you up and cool you off.

I reached down and bent over slightly, so I could cup the water and throw it over myself in an “ocean baptism” as we used to call it when my Dad made such motions.

I breathed in deeply. I could practically smell - and definitely taste - the salt in the water and it invigorated me.

I started to walk out towards where the waves were breaking and immediately after a small wave broke in front of me – I dove in.

There’s nothing in the world, as far as I’m concerned, as invigorating as that first dive. All the senses, touch, smell, temperature – all combine to give that awesome ocean experience.

A storm the night before had chilled the water and sent up the waves. In the few minutes that had passed since I got there, up and down the beach, children minded their parents' warnings and stayed close to the shoreline. The lifeguard's shrill whistle blew constantly, warning swimmers they were wading too far.

I watched the pattern in a set of waves to see how they broke. Each set was a combination of two large waves, three smaller, and then a lull.

I waited for that lull in the next set.

The power of the ocean

When it came, I dove. I swam a few strokes and felt surprisingly strong. I floated on my back for a while. It was calm. I may even have dozed off for a second. I looked up and saw a lifeguard staring at a point beyond me. As I turned to see what had caught his attention, an errant wave, broken by the offshore sand bar and larger than most, caught me and slammed me to the ocean floor. I immediately swam up to the ocean’s surface. I gasped and sucked in a ton of air. I was fine. The air was resplendent.

And then I woke up.

My cannula had gotten tangled in my hosing. But I was fine.

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