WHERE I SWIM
- Joy Krauthammer
"Where do you swim?", asked my friend.
As a child, I totally loved the ocean and loved body surfing in Rockaway and Jones Beach. As a teen by the water, I was a foolish sun worshiper.
My husband's, z'l, mother lived-- sharing the year, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay in Florida in the winter, and three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean in Long Island in the summer. We would visit. The ocean for me was pure delight. When my husband Marcel died, she sold it all; her homes after 50 years of oceans, and now lives in a hi-rise senior residence in near DC. There's a pool 3 miles away at the Y, and she has not yet been there in the two years. Somehow she made the transition safely through all this loss. *
My husband's brother, Charles, became a quadriplegic when he dove into a pool three years before Marcel and I married. As a consequence, Marcel allowed us NO pool. He was committed to having us all suffer the loss of his brother’s mobility. No pleasure allowed. In the hot Valley 115* summer days even in September, we are the house with NO pool. It even shows up on Google Earth as the property with NO blue pool.
The brother has houses and pools and lakes and boats and ... We had none. I love the water. I heal in the water. I’m at One in the water.
You can read my "Lisa, My Friend" story.** I swam at Lisa's for years; two doors down. We walked in the winter, enjoying the season's change of colors, and I would read to her as we walked. I swam in the summer in Lisa’s heated pool where we talked and intimately shared our lives for twenty five years of deep friendship. I prayed in her pool. I shape shifted into fish, sea horses and water animals and lilies in her pool. I meditated and received messages in her pool. At Lisa's, I loved to swim laps in the large rectangular pool, and float and surrender to G*d in the water when alone after Lisa got out of the water, only when our finger’s skin was purple and was wrinkled like a prune.
My daughter learned to swim in Lisa’s pool. Lisa's husband, Joe, z'l, taught Aviva to dive.
Lisa is now 89 1/2. On Lisa’s 89th birthday half a year ago, her children took Lisa away from her beautiful home where she had 24/7 caregivers, and put her in a senior facility. She deteriorated quickly, especially following a fall. Now she's in an Alzheimers unit. I don't know that Lisa even recognizes me. (She didn’t recall on our last visit, that her granddaughter had married the day before. She doesn’t remember anything from a minute earlier.) I had visited Lisa each week in her new home and brought the weekly Jewish paper. I no longer bring her favorite foods--like the figs I grow as I did when we were neighbors and she chose what to passionately indulge in. I don’t bring flowers because the new vase I bought for her new ‘home’ was missing by the next week.
When Lisa entered this place, her life now in a single room, I brought Lisa a loving story, that last summer 2007, I had written about her. I guess I knew it was our last summer in her pool. I had taken sweet photos of her in the pool. I read Lisa our pool story and Lisa said that it would be lovely if the story was framed and she could keep it on view. I had printed and fit the story on one pretty sheet. I went to the store and bought a blue frame to match the blue couch in her new room. A couple visits later the framed story was missing from the little round glass table next to the couch. I guessed that her family didn't want Lisa to have the reminder of the wonderful pool days that we shared together in her home. I had given her lots of presents. Where are they? She has none of them to hold except the love that I gave to her.
You asked about where I swim. Down the hill, three blocks away lives the most magnificent magical gardener in town. Edith, 85, lost her husband Bob, of blessed memory, 94, almost two years ago, a year after my husband died. I told my friend Edith that Lisa moved and I had no place to swim. Lisa moving was another great loss to me for many reasons.
With compassion for me, for the last few months, July, August, September, Edith played life guard. Generously, Edith gives over each morning to me at her home for my pleasure. She never gets upset when I’m later for my 7 AM swim. Edith has not been in the pool. (Lisa was able to go swimming because I swam with her.)
I swam almost daily until October 3rd in Edith's unheated pool. I expected to see polar bears this last week. After freezing in the first minute, ((( brrr ))), these last few weeks, I would ‘warm up’ the water and love it. I have truly enjoyed the chill of the water; Proud of myself also that I could survive it. I love the water embracing me. At Lisa's, I loved the warmth of the water. I had loved the morning mist that rose from the pool. In both places I loved imagining that I was in a lake with the water lapping up to the edge of the shore, and nearby, trees surrounded me. Do you know that the texture of the water can change day by day? Some days it is silky and smooth and other times it feel heavy. The water can have surprising warm and cold spots adjacent to each other. I laugh as one hand is stroking cool water and the other warm.
The day after Rosh HaShanah, a few days ago, I guess will be my season's last swim day. I found a huge black spider guarding a nest, filled probably with eggs in a large pea-sized yellow case surrounded by a spider web in the pool's inside edge of the tile border. Quickly I swam--raced out of the pool. Then the next day was Shabbat, it rained, Baruch HaShem / thank G*d, and yesterday the air temperature was twenty degrees less so I did not swim. I think my worn out baggy swim suit is finished for the season, and I look forward to buying a new swim suit next summer.
Edith is so cute. (See her photos in collage.) The sun shines through her short thick curly white hair as she sits on the white worn plastic arm chair by the pool. Her cordless phone lies on her lap as she awaits her granddaughter Ashley’s daily 8:45 AM caring calls. Last week I told Edith how adorable she is when she was sharing her fascinating life's stories with me, as she does daily. I tread water staying in place by the pool’s edge while listening to Edith’s soft voice a few feet away. We laugh a lot.
I stopped talking politics with Edith at this election time so that I would not disturb her. We differ. I treasure her too much to upset her. I promised Edith that although I love talking about my Jewish faith-- that is my life, I would not proselytize. Jews don’t proselytize.
May G*d bless Edith for being my friend, so generous in sharing her life with me.
Oh, yes, Edith shared all her home made fruit jams and summer veggies with me also (black berries, varieties of squash that I cook each morning, and big red delicious juicy tomatoes which I would eat right from the vines, adding a leaf of basil to each bite). I see her hachiyah persimmons are ripening on her tree. Last year I took photos of her persimmons and wrote a story*** about them and Edith. Ate the persimmons also, and I was in heaven.
|Edith with her Divine produce, and Lola swimming with her ball in The Pool|
photos and collage by (c) Joy Krauthammer
How do I repay Edith for her kindness? I've brought presents to Edith throughout the summer. I love the truly large hummingbird sculpture chimes because her garden is filled with dozens of hummingbirds; Edith makes food for them and feeds them all. (Edith thinks my gift of the musical chimes will wake the neighbors, so she hung it inside.) A ceramic mug with a ‘mug’ shot of a dog that looks just like her black lab, Lola, is another gift. (I neglected to mention that Lola went swimming with me at 7 am every morning, barking like crazy wanting to play ball and waking all the neighbors in case the neighbor's crowing rooster did not already wake them. (Edith's gorgeous organic shaped pool is not my meditation spot.) I was smart enough from the very first day to realize that I had to train Lola that I would not be her slave to the ball playing. (OK, some days I gave in just to stop her incessant loud sharp barking.) (See Lola in photo collage.)
I just bought a card for Edith and will bring it over (Last week I brought her cut bulb flowers-- red stargazers, purple Dutch irises and pink and yellow gladiolas unlike the flowers from seed in her lush garden). On the card cover filled with garden colors and painted glitter red roses in a flower pot, it says:
"Thank you (Edith). Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."
Inside it reads: "It is hard for me to put in words How much you mean to me... The times you've touched my heart in ways That only I could see. I'm thankful that my life includes Someone as special as you; Please know I'm truly grateful For all you are and do." I put a WATERing can book mark inside the card.
I have been blessed. I am grateful.
- Joy Krauthammer
- Joy Krauthammer
* Two and a half years after my writing "Where I Swim", my mother-in-law, Thea, soon to be 90 years, uses the swimming pool near her senior home. I know she misses the ocean.
See my illustrated story: "Lisa, My Friend"
Half a year after writing about my dear friend Lisa, Lisa succumbed to her illness at the age of 90, on her birthday week. I had visited her in time. Losing Lisa was very hard for me. Reading Torah, walking, talking, swimming, we had shared almost every day together for over two dozen years.
See illustrated story: "Short Ride to Heaven".
with a link included to You Tube and Edith's Persimmons
In 2010 I took the few dozen photos I have taken of Edith and I made my very first slide show, and with music, and put it all on UTube! I hope it thrilled Edith and her family. Edith noticed that I snuck in a photo of her jams, although the slide show is on "Edith and hachiyah persimmon drying with Joy" process. Good, she was paying attention! I had used the Snoopy music theme to accompany the slide show but I was black listed from UTube for using the copyrighted song. Oy, vey. I again created a slide show (adding a few more happy slides) with other music; clearly not as much fun as Snoopy music. I hope Edith likes my new photo collage of her, illustrating this story.