I believe in the sense of community that I have experienced for nearly a decade at the rehab-therapy pool. Banners in the parking lot proclaim “where courage meets challenge” but I feel that this is a place “where courage meets camaraderie.”
I have found that going to the pool is a dependable respite from the common wear and tear of an ordinary day. There was a time when supermarkets found me looking down the long aisles and crossing off items from my list. Walking was painful and eliminating unnecessary steps was my practice. When my doctor wrote an order for aqua-therapy, lasting change for the better was finally on the way. The first time the soothing water flowed over my shoulders, multiple hurting parts collectively exclaimed, “Wow! What took you so long to bring us here?”
In the locker room, modesty is forgotten as figures of all shapes and sizes disrobe. Helping hands are as near as the neighbor beside me. It is an act of courage at my age to don a swimsuit in plain view of twenty pairs of eyes. I am put at ease by the comment, “The favorite part of my day is when I first wake up and lift my legs into the air to admire how young & fit they look. Then, when my feet hit the floor, gravity and reality take over.” Talk is of the weather, limited parking, and swimsuits on sale. Secondhand books are tossed into a basket labeled: Take one. Share one.
Everyone in the warm water keeps moving, moving , moving with purpose – walking, bending, stretching – each at our own pace and rhythm. A friendly fellow, who repeatedly asks my name, chuckles when he remembers it. Strapping on a flotation device and heading to the deep end to paddle-like-a-duck, I have twenty minutes to pass the time as an observer.
Some participants barely ripple the water. Others create waves which slosh around my ears. I miss a swimmer from a while back whose vigorous workouts usually managed to wet my hair. I respected her strength and energy and was sorry to see her pushing a walker last visit. A petite grandmother carries her young grandson into the pool, and with loving hands she exercises the helpless limbs. A young man shifts from wheelchair, to pool chair, to the freedom of swimming. He speaks with enthusiasm of becoming able very soon to drive his truck again. Congratulations are in order.
A gentleman in his nineties walks through the door. Midway down the pool steps, his swim trunks fall around his skinny ankles. Without a moment’s hesitation, the pretty therapist pulls them up, ties the waiststring, and moves along. Ongoing conversations & routines do not miss a beat, there are no raised eyebrows, no signs of amusement. In this place, at this moment, I am seeing community at its best. I believe it is okay, at least in this group, to stand naked in the pool.