Entry: The Pool Is Cool: WWII, swimming and driving Friday, August 14, 2009


Walking/driving to and from the municipal swimming pool I belong to is a guilty pleasure. Like everybody who comes to the facility, I under-dress my swim suit. So I'm always in disguise when I enter -- have put on the costume of another player. In this uniform I'm a woman who is lithe and strong -- who will take into herself all of the oxygen that's available and put it to good, deep, efficient use. This phenom is one that I discuss with other mature women who swim and do aqua aerobics. There is a bone deep feeling of well-being and accomplishment that - I believe - is unavailable to the older body except with something like running - which is so much more tough on the aging carcass. Swimming is the balm/bomb for us riper fruits.

Accomplishment -- we mention this a lot when we are dressing and toweling off and going back to ourselves -- feeling like we've accomplished our workout -- put something in the bank for later on.

Driving an automobile is like this in some measure -- a skilled accomplishment. It is a complex set of skills that is improved with practice and attention. My beloved, late father taught me to drive. He was a gentle, patient man who had driven always -- especially in the U.S. army where he honed his skills. I am, like he was, a great driver. I am serious about driving as a skill to respect and cultivate. The most important component of the skill of driving is alertness and attention. He always emphasized that in teaching me. Even in his older age when he depended on me to drive him to his medical appointments, he would critique my driving -- especially proper parking technique. Wheels should be cut into the curb on a backwards hill. My Popsi was a parking stickler. He was convinced that some out of control car would careen around the corner, strike his car and push it away from the curb and backwards down our hilly street. In the 50 plus years he lived and parked there, I do not remember it ever happening. Why? Because he cut his wheels into the curb. I hardly ever did. It never happened to me either. He instilled in me a respect for techniques in driving and automobile maintenance. Don't idle your engine for long moments -- for any reason. It is injurious and unnecessary. His honorable discharge from the Army says that his campaigns were Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland. He told us about driving truckloads of fellow soldiers on a long road away from the beaches at Normandy. He said that the other boys were scared, hungry -- more scared than hungry. He said that he was told to put the truck in gear and not stop until. . . I have never clearly understood how this story ends. My father came back from WWII and lived another sixty years or so. My father taught most of the people in my family how to drive. He gave up driving his own car at the age of ninety-five.

I like to drive a bit after I have swum. All of my back muscles are so relaxed and articulate that I feel my arms and legs flawlessly coordinated and exerting gentle, effective control over the machine.

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