My New Adventure at the YMCA by Barbara Dexter
My chronic pain in my right leg has limited my biking, hiking and kayaking. I am forced to attend physical therapy sessions in which my leg and ankle get a brisk rub down to decrease the swelling, followed by some twisting and pulling, then it’s time for the electrical stimulation along with ice therapy. When I have a completely frozen leg and ankle it is time for some simple rotational exercises and some simple weight bearing exercises.
I feel as if the rest of my body has or is in the process of going to pot. I am limited by both my leg and my cracked rib. I deem the only thing I can do is to go to the pool and start walking, stretching, and slowly swimming. I decide to join the YMCA, for obvious financial reasons, in other words it is the cheapest and closest to home. This is my story of my experiences at the local YMCA.
It is Friday afternoon when I finally joined the YMCA. They were on the last day of their new membership drive. I saved $69.00 on the joining fee. I have about 40 minutes left to swim in the adult swim session before the swim team takes over. I ask to join in with some older ladies that appear to be going rather slowly. I tell them that I hurt my leg and need to stretch and swim to help exercise it. I am welcomed and told I could join them anytime. It is odd that I am available in the early afternoon, so I told them I would join them on my next day off. They seem to swim with flotation devices and some things that look like foam barbells. I let it go and just go around them, letting them have their space. In the locker room I was introduced to all the ladies. Then one of them said “you can swim.” I replied, “yes I can swim.” Up until that moment I hadn’t realized that they could not swim. Thought I guess the flotation devices should have given me a clue. One of them replied that they didn’t know how to swim and didn’t want to learn at their age. I suggested that if they did want to learn, the find a place that was shallow and calm so that if they needed to they could simply stand. This was met with deaf ears. I politely thanked them for allowing me to swim with them, while I was blow drying my hair. One of the ladies lagged behind the others and just kept talking. The only thing I remember her saying was that I should not use the machine to spin dry my swim suit because everybody uses it. I just thanked her and went about my business.
It was Saturday morning at 7am. I succeeded in changing into my suit and I was on my way to the pool when I encountered a pleasant young woman that was trying to strike up a conversation with me. I spoke for a few moments and found out she had once lived in Massachusetts. I am being bad and thinking “if I don’t get out to the pool I will not get a lane to swim in.” Since the pool is small this can be a challenge. I decide to politely excuse myself. By the time I make my way to the pool, I get the last available lane. The local YMCA has many swimming programs and a swim team. This is great for them but severely limits the adult lap time. Early morning is about the only time available.
Sunday morning there appears to be a chlorine issue with the pool. So the YMCA posted a sign at the entrance way. I ask when the issue will be resolved, and I was told the pool would be open later in time for the swim team. I think so much for getting out of bed at 6 am and driving over to the pool.
It is now Monday at 5:45 am. I am entering the pool to take a swim for a half-hour before I have to get ready and go to work. It is just the right time before the mayhem of the crowds come for the morning swim handicapped shower because it has a seat where I can sit to take off my swim suit. I grab my bag from my locker and proceed to the shower. On my way to the shower I could not help but notice the young woman I had a short but pleasant conversation with on Saturday, was using the hand dryer to blow dry her underwear. She had apparently just finished washing her laundry in the shower stall. I said hello and she balked. She obviously forgot I was nice to her on Saturday. I decided to go about my business and let it be.
It is Tuesday morning at 5:45 am, I arrive at the YMCA for my morning swim. It is surprising that it is not busy. I get a lane to swim and stretch. I take my time and let the warm water wash over my body. My leg is soothed by the warm water. The exercise in the pool takes the weight off it. I feel I can do more stretching. I am relaxed swimming on my back very slowly. Soon other swimmers join in and swim like machines. I admire the strength and swiftness of their strokes as I amble along in their wake. I am thinking I really need a pair of goggles if I am to deal with all the splashing. The crowd thins and I am able to just move along slowly without disturbance once again.
I mentioned this woman to the small group of women I meet with on Tuesday nights. We decide that the best approach to possibly help her would be to leave a religious journal that contains contact information, in case she wished help.
It has been a week since I have seen the young woman. The last I saw of her she was talking with a lady at the front desk. I think to myself, I hope she is not in trouble as she does need a place to remain warm for a few hours. Today she seemed to occupy the handicapped shower on purpose. That left me to use one of the smaller stalls. As I predicted, she was in there for some time. I believe she was washing her laundry but was trying to disguise it. I got myself dressed and pulled out the religious journal out of my bag. I limped over to her shower stall and left the journal on the stool just outside the door. Well I did it, I left a religious item for a total stranger. I feel like a Jehovah’s Witness.