IN THE POOL WITH OLD PEOPLE 

Laverne H. Bardy

My thirties and forties brought a slew of ailments and bodily assaults that left my scarred, once lovely, torso looking like a map of the Manhattan subway system. But, my exterior still looked good, and I had energy.

God, I miss energy.

It wasn’t until my early sixties that I started to notice obvious signs of wear and tear on my body. It seemed I was losing my battle with gravity, which was pulling me closer to my feet. I could now see that while I had been focusing on gray hairs and wrinkles, my right foot had developed a large red bunion and a hammer toe, signaling the end of sexy sandals. This realization was more devastating than my belly scars. I have worshiped shoes my entire life. My closet overflows with them. I now envisioned a future of frumpy flats and laced orthotics.

Almost too painful to think about.

Two knee and one hip replacement, along with severe back arthritis, had me leaning on a cane and, occasionally, a walker. I passed a mirror and was shocked to see my posture resembled that of Quasimodo’s. My head stretched two feet in front of me when I walked, like a periscope in search of land. Hopes of making it with George Clooney had long since vanished.

Gravity had also worked overtime on my once perky boobs. I could now tuck them into the elastic waistband of my sweat pants which managed them far more effectively than a sports bra. And, saddest of all, my face had begun to look like a Shar pei’s.

With all this in mind, I was with my husband at a lovely Florida resort. He sat under a beach umbrella sketching, while I made my way to the pool. I have always loved the water and even though I now hated the body I used to be proud of in a swim suit, I could not give up romping in the water.

I clung to the hot metal rail until I reached the bottom step into the pool, then made my way toward an animated group of what looked like might be my peers. I was walking on my toe nails, trying to avoid the cold water for as long as possible. Every few steps I stopped to splash water on my chest the way my mother had done, and I swore I never would.

The five strangers in the pool were old, wrinkled, and for the most part, overweight with varicose veins, liver spots, wrinkled chests, floppy upper arms, and cellulite thighs. They all looked like me. The men had nose and ear hairs. Actually, several women did, too.

Being timeworn granted me automatic membership into this circle of strangers.

I worked my way to the edge of the circle, and was warmly welcomed. Even before I could say Lipitorthe conversation was flowing. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about stents, enlarged prostates, angina, osteoporosis, dementia, atrial fibrillation, arthritis, hip and knee replacements, back pain, epidurals, and – God help me – incontinence.

When we finally disbanded I was surprised to realize that rather than feeling depressed, the spirit in this group had up-lifted me. Most of them were suffering from one ailment or another but they were determined to enjoy this period of their lives. They were doing things they had promised themselves they would do when the children were grown. When they’d saved enough money. When they retired. They were traveling, painting, writing, learning to play guitar, teaching, moving to the city, going back to school, and living myriad dreams and yearnings that had been put on hold throughout their lives.

My parent’s generation didn’t have the benefit of modern medicine and technology. As a result, we are living considerably longer than they did. My father died of heart complications at age 46 – something far less apt to happen today. Because he died so young, I am able to remember him strong, handsome and always working. Because I have been fortunate to live far longer than my father, my children are not going to remember me young, strong and pretty. But, they will be able to remember me old, actively involved, and happy.

Surgeries, wrinkles, aches, pains and low energy are tolls we all must pay for the privilege of longevity. Fortunately, spunk, zest and tenacity are free.

 

Laverne Bardy is the author of “Driving Backwards on a One-Way Street: A Savvy Senior’s Map to Finding Humor in Everything.” She also writes a nationally syndicated column, Laverne’s View. How to order the book, as well as general information about Laverne, can be found at lavernebardy.com.

 

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