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“Hello, again,” said a heavyset senior with hooded eyes, leaning upon her cane, waiting for her ride home. The afternoon sun bleached her faded housedress and shadowed her bulk against the entrance. I nodded as I passed her, noting her hallowed spirit.

We’d returned to the Y for short spells of walking with my cane, the humidity prohibiting exercising outdoors. Immediately, the cool air in the foyer felt like an elixir, eased my lung functioning. My steps quickened—So far, so good.

Again, Tyrol, maskless, grinned behind the reception counter as he called me by name. Again, not many members were around.

My first stop was the scale in the women’s locker room. My helper steadied me on the platform until the numbers settled in place—no weight loss relieved me.

Then, we walked through large connecting rooms filled with rows of exercise machines, weight lifting equipment; through the full-sized gym where two guys were shooting hoops; and then, through an exercise room with a mirrored wall and recessed closets with various sized balls and yoga equipment. Long strips of wood veneer flooring would help focus my eyes upon maintaining my balance. For time-out purposes, three blue-cushioned chairs sat along one wall. This arrangement would serve my needs.

I rested a bit before standing to get my balance, then began walking with/ without my cane, my helper, at my side. The mirror reflected a tall senior with long blue-jean-clad legs and short white hair, not as stooped as I had expected. Seven times around the room’s perimeter was enough. I was grateful, finished for the day. Tomorrow’s challenge, yet to be met.

“You’re good to go,” said Tyrol seated behind the Plexiglas screen, his expansive chocolate eyes studying me over his mask. “And you’ll need this to get in,” he added handing me the card for the scanner on the nearby counter. I breathed easier, the afternoon sunshine bathing the foyer in light behind me. My admission to the YMCA was free with my Silver Sneakers eligibility. 

“Thanks for your help. You’ll never know,” I said smiling and inserting the card into my wallet.

True, I still have a terminal illness, Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis; its progression, unpredictable. Since November 2019, the hospice nurses have counseled, “Just wait and take care of yourself. We’ll be back next week.” And they continue to come, noting signs of my decline in their computers: Evidence of my eighty-five + years unraveling my youthfulness. Then, I got tired of waiting for I knew not what.

In January 2021, I begin short walks in the neighborhood, with my helper’s support and my cane. How I relished the warmth of the sun, telltale signs of greening, and neighbors walking their dogs, having been housebound for so long.

With last week’s return of humidity, though, my spirit sank. In no way could I breathe. I needed an air-conditioned venue to continue my daily walks.

How I was led to the Silver Sneakers and the nearby YMCA is another story. Once inside, though, my crimped airways opened and relaxed. Lightness filled my lungs. My gait felt more steadfast, with less dependence upon my cane and none upon my helper, who followed me around the facility largely empty, save for a handful of seniors.

This will work, if I let it, one day at a time.

The green pickup truck with the yellow logo—Fred M. Luth – Family Owned Contractors Since 1920—parked in our neighborhood, the harbinger of the long awaited replacement of our storm sewer. For a month, preparations had been underway: Surveyor crews with hard hats had spray-painted red and orange numbers on our streets, utilities had flagged underground lines, and teams of workers drilled holes in the street, spray-painted another set of measurements, before filling the holes with asphalt.

Next came flatbed trucks delivering greenish plastic pipes stacked, pyramid-style, along sides of the streets, then, parts of four concrete sewers along the sidewalks, then, a huge rectangular steel frame upon the street. Next, dump trucks deposited a mountain of rocks on an adjoining street. The site seemed ready.

Last Monday, the green pickup truck with the yellow logo returned. It was time.  Licensed engineers and drain layers began operating the CAT backhoe and the crawler crane, and with them, ripping, pounding, crunching, and rasping noises: Always an issue with me, I wondered how I would manage, being housebound.

The drilling began next to my house. More significant than the noise, however, was the crawling crane slicing foot-length concrete like a pasta cutter, doughy ribbons. After the drill bit had been changed for the bucket, the crawling crane scooped up the broken concrete and dirt into waiting dump trucks and hauled them away.  

I could go on and on about the week’s experience, ending with the installation of one of the storm sewers. Yes, the noise was significant, but the camaraderie, the laughter, the expertise of the crew absorbed me more. Many tense moments, repetition of measurements, and reworking adhesive materials evidenced critical teamwork, in hold-your-breath procedures.

The crew will return, weather permitting, but their necessary noise will be further down the street. As an aside, I did pray for their protection.

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