Woman in the Hot tub

The jets of water massaging my back were my reward for an hour and a half of working out with weights and swimming at the Y. I looked forward to it as I lifted, strained, crunched, and finally stroked my way back and forth, back and forth through the cool refreshing water of the lap pool. Dora had waited for me, first by my side in the gym and then tethered to a bench by the pool, never taking her eyes away from me. At last, it was time for me to haul myself out of the pool and let Dora guide me to the hot tub. “Hot tub,” I commanded, and in a minute or so, she’d be tethered once again to the railing of the tub, while I slipped down into the hot roiling water. Sometimes, if I knew I was alone, I would stretch out so my toes touched the seat opposite me, so my upper back and neck could be massaged by the water too.

Then in the midst of my pure and hedonistic joy, I heard a woman’s voice asking me, “How many steps are there?” She was grasping the railing and taking her first tentative step into the water. “Um, I don’t know,” was my unhelpful reply. I had never counted them. I just took one step, and then another, until I reached the bottom, and then turned to one side or another and sank down onto the bench, submerging my tired and grateful body. But this woman was afraid to step down into the water, because she could not see the next step. It did not occur to her to feel for the edge of the step with her foot and then step down. How could she be afraid she would drown or something, when I was sitting right there, not 3 feet from her? The roiling waters made it impossible to see past the first step, so she asked me, a blind woman how many steps she should expect. I never count steps. I step down until I can’t step down anymore, and that’s it.

It was in that moment that I imagined what it would be like to suddenly be blinded, say, overnight, or from a tragic accident. All at once, every step is a threat of a fall or worse. I lost my vision over about 40 years, so the natural progression of my eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, made the progression of finding new ways of handling every situation in life just as natural. For those first few moments, that woman was experiencing blindness, and it was frightening. So I tried to be a little more helpful. “Maybe 3 or 4? I’m not sure.” As I climbed out of the hot tub, using the railing as my guide and stability, I made a point of counting the steps. I was tempted to tell her, “there are 4,” but maybe she figured out that all she had to do was follow the railing, or follow the woman who had been lounging in the water and now was collecting her Seeing Eye ® dog, walking down the 2 steps away from the hot tub area, and marching off to the locker room.

New Trend in Swimwear

I swim twice a week at my local YMCA. Once someone assists me in finding a lane that isn’t being used, I’m on my own for the rest of my time there. Ropes strung along the lane lines give me boundaries, so I can swim laps with confidence. I keep a talking clock at the end of the lane, double-wrapped in freezer baggies, so I can keep track of the time, on account of my transportation. My guide dog Dora waits patiently and watches me as I swim up and back, up and back. I just love the feeling of strenuous exercise that is also relaxing.

One morning, as I hauled myself out of the pool and walked over to collect Dora, who was tethered to a bench, a woman came up to me very tentatively. “Excuse me,” she said. “I don’t know how to say this but, um, the back of your bathing suit is worn out. It’s the chlorine.” I reached around and felt nothing unusual, no skin peeking through a seam, no hole in the fabric. I was puzzled. Apparently, when you swim a lot in an indoor pool, the chlorine eats out the color in your suit, no matter how careful you are in rinsing it out when you get home. But she insisted that she could see right through the fabric. I was mortified. There I had been, walking around the pool for who knows how many weeks with my behind exposed. Another lady offered to walk very closely behind me as I made my way to the lockerroom. You can be assured that I got on line and ordered a new suit that very afternoon. The sense of touch just wasn’t enough this time. It’s just like telling someone about a spot on their shirt. We can’t feel it, but you can see it, so please tell us. I had no idea I was walking around with a transparent suit. Remember the story of the king’s new clothes? There will be no picture accompanying this story.