Now that I am officially a snowbird, living in a 55+ community is very much like a college dorm– only the heartbeat of the community is the pool. The veins and arteries of the pool consist of the same characters desperately needing a daily dose of sun, water, conversation, and huge laughter. Or at times, a few tears. We are like a therapy group session only we are bobbing up and down in the water. There is the occasional swimmer like me, who snakes around the pool people. As I proceed forward with my story, I will protect the innocent and elderly by not giving their true names. In reality, they would love their names known.
On top of the list of pool rules is “No peeing in the pool and no politics.” After all, our plumbing is not as sturdy as it used to be plus, we have BIG political opinions. Residents cannot cross those rules. Simple conversation starters are usually “How do you feel?” or “How is your blood pressure?” and “What meds are you on?” Sounds like a downer but there is a lot of caring and nurturing for each other in the pool. We are all different ages, and we all take care of each other. We give hair, fashion, automotive and medical advice. At all times. Whether you need it or not. Some folks have lost their hearing while others are in their 90’s flapping around like goldfish. We all learn to be patient and speak loudly in the pool or scream if necessary. Some residents arrive quietly and withdrawn but once they get a slice of how outrageous our pool humor can be, they are initiated into our group. It’s an invitation to get crazy in the water and let all thoughts hang out as we have all had a life well-lived and nothing left to lose. Except maybe by drowning.
The art of people watching at the pool is a sitcom. That enclosed body of chlorinated contained water is full of characters. Each and every person has a fascinating story to tell. The early morning regulars are on the prowl ready to demand a lounge chair. God forbid should you try to save another for someone else. Supplies are your super thick beach towels, #100 sunscreen (beware melanoma although we are all the color of roasted walnuts and who cares anyway), include water or whatever cocktail you wish to enjoy in a thermos, plus snacks. The pool rule sign says “NO FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED” but you can bet Big Jake has just returned from Wawa, burgers warm in a bag dripping grease, crispy chicken, huge bags of chips and bottles of soda all stationed on the table underneath the umbrella. A radio blaring 1960’s hits is a must for digestion.
Individual groups are floating in the pool, and you may swim, walk, or dog paddle to and from any group. Finally, there is the cast of characters. The main one is Max, Patron Saint of Dogs. This senior is not only owner of a Vietnam Purple Heart but owns a gold heart in his chest as well. He sits daily in front of the pool gate with huge bags of dog snacks. Every dog, every breed in a condo of 5000 residents can have a treat. Max knows every dog’s name.
Then there is Carmine. Once a Brooklyn mobster, short, hairy Carmine arrives with his pink flamingo pool shirt, short shorts and a huge gold cross around his neck and matching pinky ring. Carmine never swims in the pool, just sits, and does storytelling about the many strip clubs he owns in Florida. He cares deeply about the condo and whenever a hurricane hits and everyone evacuates, he stands in the street with his shotgun protecting all of our belongings.
Rosetta Vitale. The 92-year-old lady guaranteed to never sink to the bottom of the pool. She wears more gold jewelry than all pawn shops in Florida and will always stay above water. Another valuable member of the senior pool set, Rosetta has a Rolodex for every extraordinary doctor in any specialty in the State. From bunions to open heart surgery, she is your go-to gold gal.
Let me take a moment to say not one female in the pool has ever wet their hair. Their hair is a spiritual thing never to be touched by chlorinated water. For those wearing wigs, they are sprayed to be recycled into automotive safety air bags should the owner unexpectedly go to their sweet rewards.
Trixie. Trixie is 82 years old and has the figure of Marilyn Monroe. She never swims and only soaks up sun in the pool lounger. What she does is walk 12 miles a day. Dark as an almond, Trixie loves any and all donuts, particularly the Boston Creams.
Jean and Harold. The only couple duo in the pool since wives outlive husbands. Both are plastered to a noodle between their legs and the couple never moves. Totally covered by wet/dry suits from hand to foot, they claim the sun is their enemy, although both are the owner of many freckles. Jean and Harold are a powerhouse of knowledge and trivia and consider themselves floating encyclopedias. About 15 minutes is all that anyone in the pool can take visiting with them.
Aging joints and arthritis no more. Our condo pool is a sacred place for gossip, opinions, and medical advice. The buoyancy of the water gives everyone a fresh outlook on life. Just because you are not in the ocean does not mean you should skip sky diving as your next adventure.