Pretty Summer By Pretty Summer, 15th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Bereavement

A reflection on water aerobics and some of its glorious side effects in the name of friendship and life experiences.

The class

I teach water aerobics. If you are not familiar with it, it is similar to a traditional aerobics class in that there are components of: warm up, cardiovascular, strength and endurance, flexibility, range of motion, and "warm" down (because in the pool where we exercise, saying "cool" is tantamount to class exodus, especially in an outdoor pool in cooler weather). I have been teaching this class for nearly 14 years now, and I love it. That's obvious since I have stuck with it for 14 years, right? Anyhow, it is a wonderful class.

The participants

My class is primarily "active older adults," which is a nicer way of saying 50+. However, it isn't limited to that age group. Anyone is allowed in, 10 and up. It just so happens that my class is during the select (less busy) hours when most older adults can afford to come in for limited fees. This means that my group is often made up of retirees, post-op patients with "bum" or replaced body parts, and similar life situations. Typically, these people are well-educated through formal education, life experiences, or a combination of both. This makes for a lively and eclectic group of people.
One such person was Pat. When Pat first walked out onto the pool deck, I had an instant recognition that "a kindred spirit" had arrived. She was a British lady with short, grey hair in a sort of pixie-like bowl cut, beautiful, big, blue eyes, and a wide and easy smile. She had a terrific sense of humor, and I adored listening to her and interacting with her both in and out of the pool. Over the years, she celebrated many milestones with me: college graduations, engagement, marriage, and the birth of my son. In short, she had become a lifelong friend, not just a participant in my class. When she had to stop attending my class a number of years back, we were both saddened. She needed to spend more time at home taking care of one adult son's serious illness as well as her husband's needs since his health was not good either. Unfortunately, that meant that Pat was no longer able to devote 3 hours a week to her own health by taking my class.


Pat is not the only participant I have lost over the years. After 14 years with this population, as you can probably imagine, some of these losses are permanent. I remember each and every single one of those people. Fred and Lynn both had smiles that lit up the outdoor pool as though we had been in a solar eclipse. Cinda and Bob who were an adorable married couple who always had jokes to tell during the suspended work (like treading water for several minutes), that would distract us from our physical discomfort and fatigue. Marie was as sweet a lady as one could ever meet and worked as a volunteer at the hospital across the street from our pool. Margie was loud (her voice carried, even when she tried to be quiet), but she was loving (we lost her to cancer earlier this year). My grandmother, an exceedingly proper and brilliant woman who helped shape me into the woman I am today (she succumbed to Congestive Heart Failure and Dementia this time two years ago). The list goes on.

Pat stands out, not because she was more memorable, but because, even in the face of adversity, she shined. For years after she stopped coming, she would walk out onto the pool deck in her blousy, flower-printed, knit dresses and SAS shoes with a silly chicken head hat strapped to her head, and she would beam the whole time. One year, she even came out in the full chicken costume that went with it and danced the Chicken Dance on deck while we did it in the pool! It was one of many memorable experiences that also managed to teach me a valuable life lesson. She didn't care what others thought of her, but she did care about finding joy in life. She certainly added joy to mine.


Pat had to go in for a heart issue in late September. It did not go well. She passed away on October 1st, and I am still reeling from our loss. She came out onto the pool deck every Friday around Halloween because we would do "Crazy Hat Day," and she wanted to participate. This year, "Crazy Hat Day" is on November 1st and will be (in my mind anyway) in honor of her and Margie, who also loved participating on that day and would suffer through the seemingly cold temperature of the outdoor pool just so she could participate.

Margie, Pat, I am still grieving for you because you touched and helped shape my life in many ways. I will miss seeing you at our "water group" luncheons at Marie Callendar's or wherever else we end up. I will miss your laughter and beautiful smiles. Most of all, I will miss your invaluable friendship. I pray that you have found peace and eternal laughter in a warm pool with the other beautifully wonderful people I miss. Save me a space near you in the eternal pool!


Bereavement, Cancer, Dear Friend, Death, Exercise, Family, Grandmother, Grief, Health, Heart, Pain, Sadness, Uncle, Water Fitness

Meet the author

author avatar Pretty Summer
I am an English teacher at a local community college, and I am a lifelong bookworm. I also love photography, travel, nature, and my family most of all.

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