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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.

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