Taking care of a pool is like taking care of a person

I grew up in Brooklyn and, while I did a lot of different things in “the city,” two things I never did were learn how to swim and hang around pools. In fact, my first real pool memory is, at a teenage pool party, getting thrown in.

I had to frantically grab onto this girl who had no idea what I was doing to pull myself out and not drown. That’s about all I ever had to do with pools until I got married.

My in-laws have a beautiful in-ground pool. Lately I’ve been responsible for taking care of it. Let me tell you, I have a new respect for pool owners and maintainers. There is a lot of work required to have a nice pool. I had no idea. It’s been quite eye-opening, in fact.

As my kids grew up, they always got excited when they knew they’d get to swim in Grandma and Grandpa’s pool. When we’d go over there and see this large expanse of clear, blue water — the pool is 16-by-32 feet — I just assumed it was always like that.

How little I knew what it took to keep that pool looking clear and clean all those years. Now that I know what it takes to keep it that way, I feel guilty I didn’t do more to help maintain it. Yes I’m making up for it now, but still.

A lot, and I really mean a lot, of work was done to keep that pool crystal clear so my kids could swim in it. That was really nice of my in-laws to do.

A pool is very much like a person, in that it has good days and bad days and really needs daily maintenance and attention to be at its very best. I’m not being facetious here, believe me: A fellow I know who maintains several pools says you really need to check on them each and every day. That’s quite a responsibility to take on but, if you want a clean, enjoyable pool, this is really how it is.

The basic thing with a pool is you are always testing the water to determine what chemicals you need to add. You can buy water-testing kits, but many pool stores will test it for free in the hope you’ll then buy the chemicals needed from them.

In my case, I bought countless five-gallon jugs of chlorine in order to keep this pool looking good. The reason it needed so much is we hadn’t used it in a couple of years, so it had gotten quite green and murky. Like anything — or anyone — that requires attention and doesn’t get it, a lot of work was needed to set things right.

There are all kinds of other chemicals the pool needs from time to time, depending on use, rainfall, how it is maintained, and plenty of other factors. All I know for certain is it can be quite expensive to keep a pool looking clear and clean.

The good thing is, at least with a pool, you can get a good idea of what kind of shape it’s in just by looking at it. Not so easy to do that with people, haha.

This pool had been stored correctly by having a winter cover placed over it; however, because the pool hadn’t been used in a couple of years, the cover had become an ecosystem unto itself. There were all kinds of leaves and pine needles and green, scummy water on it, such that you could see endless amounts of tadpoles swimming around. That’s right, the frogs had taken over.

To set things right, I had to pump off the water that was on top of the pool cover before removing it. That was quite a job and took several days even with an electric pump working hard for hours and hours.

The revealed pool water itself was deep green, like a pond, and it was full of frogs as well. Yikes. To remove the frogs I corralled them in the mesh at the end of the long-handled pool skimmer.

It was like playing whack-a-mole at the fair, as they were dunkin’ and jukin’ big time. Once I got them in the mesh, I could then gently toss them over the fence onto the grass and shrubs. The war wouldn’t be won that easily, unfortunately.

In one corner of the pool is the skimmer. This is where water gets pulled in by the pump for filtering. There is a little basket that catches all the debris like pine needles and leaves.

Apparently the skimmer is also a five-star resort for frogs as well, as I found frogs of all types and sizes, alive and dead, in there just about every day. The frog population thinned out significantly once I started adding copious amounts of chlorine, but they like the pool so much I’m sure they’re just waiting to come back in full force again.

The pool has a very large filter, controlled by a pump that runs on a timer. You can filter the water, or just recirculate it. Or you can “backwash” the filter, or just waste the water to lower the level in the pool.

You can also hook up a vacuum that runs off the pump, so you can clean the scum off the sides and the bottom. If you are gathering at this point that there is a lot of work, knowledge, time, and expertise in keeping a pool looking its best, you are correct.

I used to think the ubiquitous “pool boy” that is a plot device in so many books and movies was just a joke, but now I know better. Those young, good-looking guys, if they are doing the job correctly, are more than just eye candy for bored housewives with money who happen to be home during the day.

To keep a pool nice and warm, you can put a solar cover on it. This large, expensive piece of bubble wrap rolls up onto a big winder when not in use. When rolled up, it is on wheels but it is still big, heavy, and quite unwieldy.

At the end of the season, using various ropes and knots, my father-in-law — an old farm guy who expertly knows how to tie and untie all the useful knots — would somehow hoist this thing up onto the ceiling, by himself, suspending it on large hooks such that he could park his truck under it during the winter.

I did this once, but I had to use two ladders and pray hard the whole while that I didn’t kill myself or cause some other kind of damage. Again, had I known all this time that he was doing dangerous stuff like this all by himself, I would have been there to help, believe me.

To winterize the pool, there is an arcane sequence involving drain plugs, anti-freeze, shop vacuums, plugs, fittings, and secret incantations. I’m not even kidding.

It took my hard-working wife and I many, many hours before we felt confident that the pool is bundled up correctly for the winter. And to think all that work has to be undone to get it going again in the spring. Sigh.

Now I know why they invented margaritas (and be sure to drink yours in a plastic cup as we do not want glass anywhere around the pool for obvious reasons).

I had no idea all these years what a sheer amount of time, hard work, and money my in-laws spent to provide a clean and shiny pool so my kids could swim. I would have helped out a lot more with the care and maintenance had I known, no question.

If you get to swim in a clean pool, be sure to thank whoever takes care of it for their hard work and dedication. Trust me, they have earned it.