I love to swim, always have. Laps, synchronized, life guarding, the beach. If it involves water, I’m in. Water has always been one of my passions. Not long ago I experienced one of life’s greatest joys, in the water! It involved a stranger named Gisela and a touching conversation in the hot tub at my local pool.
I watched her descend the hot tub stairs, holding on for dear life. We made eye contact. She walked right over and sat down beside me. Very close. I put her at late 80s. I’d seen her before. Like me, she’s a regular. She was unsteady, sighing as she slid into the healing waters of the tub.
She began speaking in broken English. I learned she was an immigrant, from Hungary, who bore three children in Canada. Her husband now resides in a box under her bed. “He vant to be bury vith his dog but authority say no so I keep him to bury with me soon.” I settled in for a good conversation.
She asked if I had children. I told her yes, two boys and a girl. “Is girl marry?” “Yes, she is, quite happily.” “Oh, too bad; I look for wife for my lazy son who still single.”
“How about grandchildren? You have?” “Yes, I have one precious girl, already a teenager.” Her eyes sparkled and she broke out in a toothless grin. “Oh, you so lucky. I have no.” “My children take care of me so I lucky, yes?” “Yes,” I replied enthusiastically. “You are very, very lucky.” She frowned. ” I still no lucky with no grandbabies.”
“Vhat your name?” “Rebecca”. “Oh, from the Bible, yes?” “Yes”, I replied, “or from Sunnybrook Farm, but either is fine with me.” She giggled but her brows furrowed. “I am Gisela, very Hungarian name, but for years Canadian people call me Giselle and speak French to me but I no speak French.” She howled with laughter. Me, too.
She chatted on about life, aging, health and love until we were both “well done”. I was starting to get dizzy from too much heat so I stood up. “Thank you for talking to me”, Gisela said quietly, touching my arm. “It was my pleasure, Gisela. I enjoyed our time together. We will see one another again, I’m sure.”
As I drove home I thought about how many Giselas there are here in this retirement haven of Victoria. Very old people who are in need of someone to acknowledge them, to take time to be with them. That morning was one of those special moments, an opportunity to be 100% with someone who needed it. I still smile as I think of Gisela. I’ve seen her again and we have chatted or acknowledged one another from a distance. Our paths first crossed in the hot tub but that day we became friends. A tender moment indeed.