My mother was afraid of the water for most of her life. I think she had been dunked in the creek one too many times by her older brothers when she was young, and never really recovered. It was very rare for her to get into her (old, shirred, 1940’s style one-piece) bathers, no matter how hot the day. However she was very keen that us kids would like swimming, and we went each summer in the new year to the two week ‘Learn to Swim’ classes that were held throughout the state in swimming pools and the sea. Mostly for us this was either Clare or Riverton pools, but we sometimes went for a week to the classes held at the beach when we were on hols at Victor Harbor.
In spite of her refusal to get in the water with us, she would say time and time again (when watching olympians power up and down pools, or hearing about someone water skiing, or on hot days or just by the way) “In the next world, I’m going to swim and dive and do all the water sports”. She had a kind of yearning I think.
In her latter years mum had bad arthritis, which of course meant lots of pain and discomfort. When she was ill, in her last couple of years, someone suggested that she could try hydrotherapy perhaps, in the pool at Clare, as a means of getting some exercise without so much pain to her joints. She was, unsurprisingly, very reluctant. She had no bathers, it would take organising, how would she get there? The idea sat for a while and I expected that we would have to talk her into it, but one day she said to me out of the blue that she thought she would give it a try. This meant finding bathers and attending a preliminary on land exercise program to get ready, and organising who would take her and when, but she did it. And LOVED it. She felt so proud of herself I think, and really enjoyed the activities and the success. She went to Clare twice a week with Lynne who worked with one of the aged care organisations and used to support us at home with cleaning and other activities. Mum (all of us) loved her. I went up one Tuesday – it turned out to be just a little over 2 months before she died – to see her in action, and she was just thrilled to show off. I have a photograph of her taken that day on my desk at work, and another copy at home on the dressing table. She looks as if she is going to leap through the lens with happiness. I went with her again about 6 weeks later. She was much less well by then and it turned out to be her last time, but again it was lovely to be there, and I have a picture of me with her in the pool that time.
I love the photos and the memories – her determination and her pride in her success; the way it is possible to take up challenges right to the end of life; how we are in fact really living even when we are dying. And I can picture her in that mythical next world now too, frolicking in a pool, duck-diving with the best of them.