I realized my body was not what it used to be after my back and knees began to antagonize me and my orthopedist advised me to exercise. Not my first choice but, O.K. I joined the YMCA and took my aching body over to the warm water pool.
The pool was wonderful. It eased my pain and the buoncey allowed me to exercise without restraint. The water felt like a child’s bath or a mother’s womb. It was wonderful. My goal was to get in as early as possible to avoid other bodies, especially squealing splashing children as well as idle small talk.
Then I had a major crisis consisting of two pinched nerves, and I was confined to my house for three weeks. I began to question my reason for existence and lack of productivity to the human race. I had to slow down and take care of myself.
When I finally got back to the YMCA pool I began to notice other things. At first glance, what I called "the regulars" were just a lot of white hair and aging skin as mostly everyone there was at least 20 years my senior. Then I noticed the transformation. Many came in to the building using canes, walkers and barely moving. Once I saw an artificial limb beside a bench. Once in the pool these people were transformed. They moved and swam, and, most of all, smiled. They greeted each other by name and were genuinely concerned about each others well being. The water was the great equalizer.
My first thought was of the movie cocoon where Wilber Grimsley and his friends find a fountain of youth as such by swimming in a pool with an alien cocoon. The people at the Y had, in a sense, found their own fountain of youth and their own community or breakfast club. Ponce De Leon had nothing on them.
I saw them in a new light. They were fighters, survivors. Not only had they lost the physical health and strength but mostly likely a spouse and other family and friends. The men had military tattoos. They had fought in wars and raised families and worked jobs. They had seen a lot in their years. In our society now with relationships being replaced by technology, they were still connected. I couldn’t imagine them sitting in a recliner watching Jersey Shore on television or staring at a computer screen but outside gardening, taking a walk, enjoying their grandchildren at play, and of course meeting the breakfast club every morning — joking and talking, sometimes singing and taking an interest in each other’s lives. These seniors can teach us all a lesson about enjoying life, perseverance and most of all making the best of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.