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I love the opening day of the pool in our community. Usually. But this year, I was glum. I still had to wear my walking boot cast (a result of a slight fracture on the tip of my ankle bone that happened during my trip to Australia) and wasn’t able to swim. It was awful — I could hear the shouts of glee, the kids playing Marco Polo– all taunting me– from my back deck. So near yet so far. I could feel the pool calling me but I could not be there. That lasted for the first weekend — the long weekend. By the time the second weekend came, I was apoplectic. I had to see ‘my’ pool. So off I tottered, clumping along like Thumper with The Boot, at least to say hello to the guards and explain my absence.

It may seem arrogant of me to think that anyone would notice my absence. But I am the pool’s most regular, faithful attendee. I am there every day, rain or shine, and sometimes twice a day. The guards know me so well that, before they even see me, they can sense my presence as I round the corner of the pool office, and will yell out, “Hi Laurie!” In essence, the outer lane on the left side of the pool is ‘reserved’ for me. The guards clear out raucous kids who get in my way or throw balls too close. In fact, most of the other swimmers know me and know that, when I’m there, they need to give me a wide berth. I’d like to think that this respect is in deference to my wonderful swimming style. In fact, I suspect nobody wants to be too close when my stroke goes even more haywire than normal and takes an innocent victim out with me.

I wear, as Gill says, a ‘costume’ to swim. It consists of a brightly colored suit, large gold hoop earrings, a dorky beige sunhat to shade my head (not worried about cancer; worried about my hair color –the color that now has to be re-applied every three weeks) and huge sunglasses that cover a large portion of my face. Well, it does save on sunscreen. I have often thought I must look like an alligator skimming the water, nose and eyes above water, ready to snap.

My ‘stroke’ owes more to a crippled frog than anything else. I do the breast or side stroke. I say my legs are doing the ‘frog’ kick but no self-respecting frog would be caught dead kicking the way I do. And as my back gets more and more crooked (from scoliosis) as I age, everything is a little off-side. Okay, a lot offside. My left leg never knows (or seems to care) exactly what my right leg is doing. And my arms pay no attention to what my legs are doing or when they’re doing it. The whole effect of my ‘swimming’ is one of extreme lack of co-ordination. That said, I get from one end of the long pool to the other — usually swimming a kilometer or more every day. I may be flapping randomly, but even flapping, when done in the water, is exercise. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So by the second weekend of not swimming, I thumped over to say hi. The guards were (they said) happy to see me and wondered why I hadn’t been for a swim. I showed them the boot and explained.

“It’s just not the same without you here!” they announced. I took it as a positive statement… after all, I’m in the water so often they know me like their own mothers. And we have lovely chats. And they are kind enough to have the tunes blasting when they see me coming since they know I like to swim to music. I like anything that has a good rhythm. A former guard even went to the trouble of finding an ‘oldies’ radio station specifically or me. Not only that, he fended off the complaints from the kids about the ‘horrible music’. Now that’s loyalty. I hope he didn’t get mugged after he left work.

But the lack of swimming finally did me in. This week, probably before The Boot was technically finished its job, I ripped the thing off and took myself for a swim. I told myself that the charlie-horse in my leg and stiffness of my ankle were a result of The Boot and it was actually, by this time, doing more harm than good. And no, I didn’t get the doctor’s permission. I made an executive decision. Hey, I’m old. I get to do that.

My, it was lovely. When I told Gill of my first swim, she was thrilled for me. I knew, as another person who lives to swim, she’d appreciate my happiness. And so it is with great  glee that I anticipate her return to the pool with me this summer. Two old ladies, shuffling along in our too large white robes, side by side, looking a lot like two escapees from the seniors’ home. But she will be in true swimmer’s gear: Speedo, goggles and pro bathing cap. I’ll be in flappy hat, earrings, sunglasses, brightly colored tankini as we hog two lanes of the pool. Another summer of wonderful memories. Look out, fellow flappers. Wer’re coming!