I was sitting on the edge of the pool, feet dangling in the water, watching my two children who had the Olympic-sized pool to themselves. Two college-aged guys chatted closeby at the lifeguard station, twirling their whistles. Some unrecognizable upbeat music drifted through the speakers.
An elderly couple entered the pool area. She was hobbling on a walker. He had his hand on her back, shuffling along beside her. It seemed they were taking a stroll around the premises. I noticed them, but turned away to watch the children. Seconds later, in my peripheral vision, I sensed one of the lifeguards turning back toward me to get my attention. I glanced up, followed his gaze, and there - across the distance of that large pool - was the elderly couple.
She had put her walker aside. Arms were around each other's waists. Hands were clasped. And they were happily dancing (as best they could) in a little circle to the beat of that strange, funny song echoing through the pool area. In front of my children, the two lifeguards, and me. No inhibitions. No care for what we might think of them. In fact, I am almost certain that they were oblivious to the fact that they had an audience.
This is not them of course, but it looks an awful lot like them. So for the sake of your own mental image, just pretend that it is:
Of course, the five of us on the other side stared. We couldn't stop. The lifeguards were grinning in appreciation. My daughter was giggling. It was perfect moment - like witnessing a scene from one of those Nicholas Sparks movies.
The song concluded. She reached for her walker. Lifeguard #1 began to applaud very slowly. The kind of applause that one starts when they know others will join in, and it speeds up when they do. When the elderly lady realized that we were all clapping for them, she gave a little embarrassed wave and a laugh. And then they hobbled off together, smiling.
Still kicking my feet in the water, I thought of the Beatles' classic "When I'm Sixty-Four." (More like "When I'm Eighty-Four," in this case.) I imagined that sweet couple has a lot of stories of their own - love, pain, highs, lows, arthritis, and a whole history of life that they have shared together. Yet there they were in their twilight years, enjoying one another, an obvious testament to the strength of their love.
There was a time when I thought nothing of dancing spontaneously in front of a crowd...when I was 5. Then once I hit age 11 or 12, I remember getting all self-conscious and reserved in a lot of ways, as many of us do. If anyone should be taking life seriously, it should have been those old folks...doing all they could to make it across the pool deck. But whether it was intentional or not, they allowed some joy to spill over from their hearts. ("Hey, I caught you! I saw your joy showing!" I felt like saying.) And in turn, it spilled over into me.
Next time my cup runs over with joy, I bet I'll remember that couple. I'm not saying I'm going to dance a jig in Target. But I might laugh a little harder. I might sing some Christmas carols in the checkout line this December. I might even lift up my hands in worship and not worry about what people think of me. And if my husband ever asks me to dance beside a swimming pool when we're 84...(or tomorrow)...I'm sure of this...