Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Empty Wheelchair

It's been a long, hot summer and this week the weather is cool enough so that I'm no longer in danger of dehydrating before leaving the driveway for an afternoon run. Despite the nearly overwhelming desire to hit the dirt trail just 100 yards from my house, I'm trying to be smart and reduce the high-impact stuff until my knees are on the mend.

After a tough 40 minutes on the elliptical with nothing but Hoda and Kathy Lee to watch on the gym's tv while I elliptesized (oh, hell yeah, I'm making that a verb) and listen to music, I limped to the locker room to change. Knees and ego still aching from last week's diagnosis of "bone on bone" in the right knee and what I'm going to call, Oldageitis in my left, I suited up for an uninspired swim.

As usual, I forgot to shave and so I peeked out of the locker room to see if there was anyone else doing laps and how embarrassed I should be in case anyone noticed my 'situation'. The pool was still- it's surface like an aqua-blue pane of glass. Relieved, I flip-flopped to the edge of the pool where I stood and tucked my recently dyed hair into a very unflattering swim cap. 

There was an empty wheel chair sitting at the edge of the pool. I thought it was weird and the only explanation I could come up with was that someone had left it there and that this person must be nearby and would come back to get it. 

It is this thought process that clearly demonstrates the obvious- that raising children has riddled my brain with gaping holes that obstruct my ability to think in any logical manner whatsoever.

Then from the far end of the pool, I hear a mans voice ask, "So, are you swimming a mile these days?"

I realized it was the owner of the wheel chair. 

He was walking the pool's perimeter at a pace so slow that his movements left no discernible wake in the water.

His name is John and every few laps or so when I'd stop to catch my breath (yes, that's either how very, very fast I swim or that's how taxing swimming is for me), John and I would chat for a minute or two. 

John smiled as he spoke about some of his accomplishments. Twenty-five years earlier he had been a quadriplegic but eventually he was able to learn how to use the left side of his body and he still hadn't given up the hope that he would one day leave his wheelchair behind. Two years earlier, after turning 50 and after much pool training, he had been able to walk 40 feet without assistance. 

But like me, injuries had set John back and he had to change his workout routine. Unlike me, John didn't seem to feel sorry for himself and I did not hear him complain once about his struggles at the gym or the challenges he must face on a daily basis.

So, I shut up and swam. 

I swam twice as long as I had planned while chatting with John. After forty minutes, he finished the last 20 or so meters and was back where he left the wheelchair that had confused me so.

His goal was to go from his current one lap around the pool perimeter to four laps and eventually out of his wheel chair. 

My goal is to appreciate what I can do, stop complaining about my minor aches and pains, to never give up on my goals and never, ever forget about my swim with John.


  1. Found you on the TGIF blog hop. I like what you had to say here so after I finish this glass of wine and read a few more posts, I'm going to join your GFC! Stop by and say hello sometime--I tend to blog while I'm enjoying a glass or two....

  2. Glad you stopped by, MM and I hope your 2nd or 3rd glass kept you reading (and laughing at) my posts!
    I will most certainly check you out- you sound like my kind of crazy!