April 2018

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Today, I was tardy for Silver Sneakers, the YMCA's exercise program for seniors and for me. Those of us in the class struggle with balance, so we exercise in chairs.

I'm younger than the rest, but I've had brain tumors, and they can see that I work with disabilities, so they're welcoming.

I love the coordination exercises, the humor, and the camaraderie. It's a popular program, though, and you have to be early to get in.

A few weeks ago there was a fight between my friend Jack, an older man in his early nineties, and a younger older man, in his seventies. They argued  over a chair. I don't think they came to fisticuffs, but they inspired lots of chatter, like in high schools when a fight breaks out.

Now we have new rules for checking in and getting a chair, and it seems like we need to arrive earlier and earlier. When Annabella, my 93-years-old-in-April neighbor, joins Joanie (another neighbor who volunteers and doesn't need a chair) and me, Joanie picks us up at 9 am, but on days when Annabella's not going, Joanie picks me up at 9:10. Today I wasn't ready until 9:15, and I didn't get a Silver Sneakers chair.

When I don't get a spot in Silver Sneakers, I work out in the little weight room, a room with gentle exercise equipment (like circuit weights instead of free weights) that is used by both men and women but is more frequently women's choice.

As I took my seat on the recumbent bike and started pedaling, others who hadn't gotten into Silver Sneakers came in. They were chatty, and when a woman who looks to be in her early nineties joined us, the older woman Robin introduced herself, and new woman introduced herself as Marie.

Marie wore a red beret that matched her bold red t-shirt with a thickly screened "tribes" inscribed in black across her chest. She was thin and looked strong.

After introducing herself, Marie sang Irving Berlin's song, "Marie." Her voice cracked a little but she sang heartily on:

Marie, the dawn is breaking,
Marie, you'll soon be waking
to find, your heart is breaking,
and tears, will fall, as you recall
the moon, in all its splendor,
the kiss, so very tender,
the words "will you surrender"
to me, my Marie.

She laughed as she finished, and Robin, inspired by Marie's song, stepped away from her weights and into the center of the room to sing a song I didn't recognize about, you guessed it, Robin. I understand it was a Doris Day song from the 1930s.

When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along, along
There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin' his old sweet song.
Wake up, wake up you sleepy head!
Get up, get out of your bed!
Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red!
Live, love, laugh and be happy.
What if I were blue, now I'm walking through, walking through the fields of flowers.
Rain may glisten but still I listen for hours and hours.
I'm just a kid again doing what I did again, singing a song
When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along.

Marie joined in, and they were both especially enthusiastic when they sang, "Wake up....Get up....Cheer up...!).  They sang until they got to lyrics that neither of them knew, and they stopped as they had started. At this point, Marie stepped away from her weights, too, and Robin asked if she were finished for the day.

Marie recognized that Robin thought she had just done this one weight machine, and she said, "I didn't come all this way just to do one machine. I've been in the Big Man's Gym doing weights. This is my Hour of Power. I come here for my hour of power every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I couldn't come yesterday, so I decided to see what it's like on Tuesdays."

Marie went to another machine to stretch. "I've got arthritis, so I've got to keep moving," she announced. When she finished her stretches, we all overheard a"Woooh" from the Silver Sneakers room, and she echoed, "Woooh!"

Then she said, "I love Chad [the leader]. I used to take that class! I'm going to go step into the room and yell, 'Woooh!"

Marie left, and the rest of us focused on our weights, though Robin continued chatting with the woman next to her. They both studied a machine that you stand on, bend your knees low, and raise your body, back straight. They discuss the right way to use this machine, and the second woman says, "I saw a young woman leaning over and lifting like that." She demonstrated by leaning into a forward bend and shooting upward.

A younger older man on another machine overhears them and goes to assist. "You keep your back straight and bend in your knees," he says, "like you're sitting on the toilet."

I have never heard this particular instruction before, and I look to see if they're all laughing, but they're all nodding, seriously.

Silver Sneakers is great even when I don't get in!

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