CAR pool regular
Saturday November 29th 2008, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Having given him my card with my blog address, I’m not waiting till tomorrow to post this. I want to wave hi now.

After my lupus diagnosis, starting when my youngest was two, for several years I swam Monday through Friday at the CAR pool, CAR being an acronym for the Community Association for Rehabilitation.  It was a very warm pool to help those with arthritis and it was indoors, which was absolutely necessary with my new sun-sensitive disease.  You could only swim there if you had a doctor’s prescription to get in.  So everybody there had something going on and everybody knew it.  We looked out for each other.  Often, if someone didn’t show for awhile, people would go checking on them to make sure they were okay.  This is where I met Jonathan, who was one of the lifeguards and who is now an assistant professor at a university in Singapore (ie, if you follow that link, his story did come out well in the end.)

There was the time I lost a roll of film out of my purse there and didn’t know it; it got found, and the only way to figure out whose it was was to develop the film. Since I took the pictures, I wasn’t in any of them and it didn’t help them any; so then the staff showed them to people coming in until I went, Oh! That’s Steve and Tobie! Those are my photos, sorry about that, how much do I owe you?

It was pictures of their wedding.  Tobie is half Hawaiian. Steve, it turned out, was a dead ringer for the young husband of one of the lifeguards and there had apparently been quite some consternation when those pictures came back from the shop–I think they were hiding them from Michelle-the-lifeguard just to be sure.  There was a huge sigh of relief when the groom in the pictures turned out to be someone completely different.  Too funny.

Then there was the time one of the other swimmers mentioned that he liked to bake, and I told him of a bizarre cheesecake recipe in one of my cookbooks: Oobleck Pie, for the Dr. Seuss story.  Honey lime avocado cheesecake with a wheat germ crust. Did that sound Marin County or what?

The guy asked me for the recipe. And then he actually made it.  Didn’t touch it; just brought it to the staff and presented it to them as a gift.  Heh.

I walked in the door a few hours later, and one of the lifeguards pushed that seasick-green dessert at me and told me, “This is *your* fault. You have to eat the first piece!”

Oh my.  Well.  Once you get past the shock of the first bite, it was actually pretty–okay, at least.  They had too much fun watching my face as I ate.  Yes, I’d say it’s pretty good; here, you have some!

So that gives you a little background on the place.  There were no strangers there.

There was a delightful couple there, Don and Amalie, a generation older than me but younger than a fair number of the regulars–as a young mom, I was definitely the baby in the crowd–and they were gregarious, funny, and the life of the party there.  They were essential to me as I learned how to cope with my very changed life: they had both had strokes at quite a bit younger than most, and they were perfectly cheerful about life and clearly quite in love with each other.

I remember telling Amalie once about wanting to buy some mohair yarn that was in the most perfect-ever color a yarn could ever hope to be.  It had been discontinued, so my chance to get it was a one-time thing and I knew it.  But I was highly reluctant to spend to get it.  She looked at me, and with a wisdom that I knew came of experience she had and I didn’t yet, told me, “It’s only money.  Money can be replaced.”

I bought that mohair, and it became the ribbing, collar, and cuffs as well as in the diamonds of my Kaffe Fassett coat.  Amalie made it happen.

When we decided to remodel our house, they invited me to come over to their place to show me the work they’d had done to help give me ideas, knowing that the only way to know how to do a remodel is to already have done one, and of course nobody goes into it having that.  They’d done a lovely job.  They had pet birds that I got to meet, too.

John, my baby, was I think in first grade when I quit going there: the local Y had opened an indoor pool and offered a family plan for what I’d been paying for just me.   We just couldn’t afford both plans.  CAR lost. It was terribly wrenching.

John is 20 now.  I ran into Amalie a few years ago: she was sitting in a scooter, waiting for a bus.  I didn’t recognize her at first; her hair had gone completely snow white by then, and I didn’t expect her to be in a chair.  If memory serves, I was walking home from the car repair shop, so I happened to be walking along the busy street where she was.  We had an impromptu visit that left me realizing how much I missed my old friends at CAR, wishing there were some way of having a reunion.

I saw a letter to the editor in the paper once, noticed the name, and exclaimed to my husband, Oh cool! It’s my friend Don from CAR!

Fast forward.  Michelle and I ran a few errands today, and as we got in the car after the first one, she apologized for taking so long at it. Not a problem, I quickly assured her.

Later I told her I was so glad she hadn’t been in a hurry.  The timing!  Our next stop was to Trader Joe’s for some goodies for her to take back to college that she can’t get out there.  I saw an elderly man in an electric wheelchair…

…and thought, could that be?  Don?  Nahhh.  If it were Don, Amalie would be here.  (Radiating thoughtbeams at him, Turn. A. Round.  Turn. A. Round.) Okay, that didn’t work, so from the next check-out line over, I said his name loudly, figuring that if it wasn’t him the word would simply vanish into the general hubbub of the store.

A little more volume the second time, “DON?”  Some part of me somehow just refused to be deterred, and I thought, what the heck, I’m in it now, so I said his full name loudly.

That did it.  Don turned around. It WAS him!!!

He couldn’t immediately place me, and that was no surprise; I’ve certainly aged.  My hair is completely different, and instead of being the mother of young children, I’m the mother of four 20-somethings.  But he was as sweet as ever and certainly willing to hold a conversation with someone who clearly knew who he was and was so glad to see him.

I reintroduced him to my tall Michelle, telling him she was four years old when he’d first met her.  We chatted a little, and I think he got who I was.   Then he opened up and told me, “My wife passed away a few weeks ago. It was very sudden.  It was very unexpected.  She…” He stopped.  “She didn’t suffer.”

My heart went out to him.  “Oh, honey.” I told him, “I’m so sorry.”  I told him how very glad I was to see him.

While I thought, I am SO glad that today of all days and this moment of all moments we ended up in this store and that you did too.  And somehow in the lines right next to each other right here.  I am just SO glad.  Dear God, thank you.

And Don, I look forward to the next time I get to run into you.  Take good care of yourself, y’hear?  I need you to.  When my own life was upended, you and Amalie are the ones who showed me how to cope.

6 Comments so far
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My sister gave me a birthday card, years ago, about life being like a quilt, that there were bright patches and dark patches but when you stepped back and looked at it, it was a masterpiece.

True, though I think it is more like a tapestry, and that we weave bright threads into one another’s lives.

Comment by Lynn 11.30.08 @ 4:26 am

It just goes to show that when paths cross, bonds are formed. Sometimes, just supporting a new friend through a rough patch turns you into a life-long friend, no matter how infrequent the contact.

Comment by Channon 11.30.08 @ 6:35 am

You’re right, I’m so glad you were in that TJs, at that time. The two of you clearly needed to meet.

Comment by Jocelyn 11.30.08 @ 9:49 am

Ok, that one brought the tears to my eyes. We never know just how much a hello or a brief friendship means to those around us.

Comment by sonya 11.30.08 @ 10:03 am

Alison, this one choked me up! I’m so glad you recognized him. I’m sure you brought sunshine into his life by taking the time to speak with him.

Comment by Joansie 11.30.08 @ 4:08 pm

I hope Don reads this!

Comment by Michelle 12.01.08 @ 9:16 am

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