Picture this: me backstroking in the middle of my half mile swim. Have the lane all to myself and starting to pick up speed, which at my age is relative. Thinking how I can’t wait until it’s over. Then. . .smash. Suddenly, I collide with my friend, Forest, who in his Alzheimer’s state of bliss has no clue what has just happened. He has plunked himself into my lane without so much as a second thought or look.
“Oh,” he says with a gurgle. “There you are. I haven’t seen you in a while.” Now this length of conversation is the longest we have had yet. And, the most lucid. Every day his caregiver sits on a bench at the end and waits as he wades back and forth in his flowered swim trunks and duck-like pool shoes. He doesn’t swim exactly, rather plods from one end to the other with a laissez-faire stroll that would make a Persian cat jealous.
“Well, Hi, Forest,” I smile. “It’s not a good day for climbing trees,” he confides. “You’re right,” I reply. “That’s why it’s a good thing we’re in the pool.” Now I have to figure out my next move. The lane next to us is open but if I move over it might hurt his feelings. So, I continue. Each time we get close, I pause until he passes and go on.
Just as I start my last lap, we reach the end at the same time. “Hey, Forest,” I suddenly chide, “Wanna chase me?” “Oh, Yes!” he says. And with great anticipation on his face, Forest begins to ‘chase’ me. I do the backstroke as he pursues. His flowered trunks balloon around his hips like small sails. I can tell he has picked up his pace, but no one watching would see a difference. I don’t let him catch me, of course. Just watch this grown man trying to come after me with all the glee of a young boy in pursuit of a rabbit; in this case, a ‘gray hare.’
I am already halfway up the steps to leave as he arrives. “That was fun!” I say. “Yes,” he smiles. “And you are looking GOOD!” “Well, so are you,” I reply. At that moment, a rather large, buxom blonde steps down into his lane. As I turn to leave, I hear him say, “I haven’t seen you in a while. . .” (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a nonfiction memoir of the 13 years she and her husband cared for her grandmother with Alzheimer’s. http://www.helen-hudson.com)