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February 20, 2010 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Back with the Oldies

I say Oldies jokingly.  Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. 

I have always had a special place in my heart for old folks.  (DISCLAIMER: in just a few short decades, I will officially BE an old folk!)  Read about Casey and Leroy here.  Some other time I will write about the little old man in the plaid coat who always ordered a poached egg.  He got shot by a BB gun by an ex-boyfriend.  Jerk.  Anyway, I ramble.

I recently found out (on top of everything ELSE) that my last back fusion (ALIF L5-S1) did not heal properly.  This was unexpected.  I am a non smoker, pro-calcium, healthy person.  Yet for whatever reason, the bone that was supposed to fuse my L5-S1 joint into a solid mass, didn’t.  And now I don’t have a joint there, which was discovered after many radiation-based scans.  It’s a small area of nothing where something is supposed to be…just a quarter inch.  Yet to me it feels like the Grand Canyon of nerve pain.  There are only two options here…”fix it” or “don’t” according to my surgeon.  He recommends highly fixing it.

However, he said “not yet.” 

I’m not ready for another surgery, he insists, and I know that he is right.  I have a few things I need to do, he tells me.  I need to get in physical and mental shape for a fourth back surgery.  My muscle just behind my L5-S1 is marbled like a nice prime rib, because it’s impossible for me to use right now.  My brain must prepare for a lifetime of back pain.  Therefore I am sentenced to the pool for my aerobics, and to a neuropsychiatrist for my head. 

I will talk about the neuropsychiatrist another time, because that is going to need a post of its own.  I’m here to talk about the pool.


I didn’t grow up swimming.  I can swim, but don’t you agree that swimming is the world’s most inconvenient sport?  You have to shower, then swim, then shower again, and get all ready and stuff, and there are locker rooms and funny smells, and wet clothes to deal with later.  ARGH!! Swimming blows. 

But I soon found out I am not swimming.  I am AquaJogging. Which totally freakin’ RULES. 

Basically I get to wear this foam belt that suspends me in the water, and “jog.”  I can also emulate other forms of exercises, like “cross country skiing” and jumping jacks.  This may sound like the height of boredom to you, but to someone who used to run five miles a day this is heaven.  There is no impact to my back.  The harder I push in the pool, the more it feels like exercise.  I even have full access to “pool weights” which are dumbbells made of dense foam…once they are underwater they want to pop up to the top and the weightlifting action comes from your arms trying to pull them through the water.  I had no idea this stuff existed.  Plus I can strap weights to my ankles and add a whole new level of fun to trying to stay afloat.  I am exercising again, and I don’t hurt for days afterward!

One of the other unexpected benefits to being sentenced to the pool is that I get to increase my interaction with the elderly by 4000%.  See, besides me, the only other people who are sentenced to the pool are members of AARP.  I dig it though. 

I love the confidence of older people.  I love that many of them march out of the locker room, sagginess and liver spots proudly on display.  I love that they all accept and talk to each other…you can tell the former beauty queens from the hairy, still-Trekkies…and they stand next to each other in the pool jumping and heaving together.  The gray old men’s eye’s still wander to boob-level as one of the seventy-something women bounces past. 

In the locker room, the women are all kind to me, offering an explanation for why they are taking up two spaces on the bench and how they need to remember to not do that next time.  They talk amongst themselves…chatting about the “nice man who joined them in water aerobics…do you think he’ll come tomorrow?”  They talk about grandchildren getting married and ogle over the groom’s picture.  They still got it.  They will be back tomorrow, their oldness not covered or hidden by layers of wool, but exposed through a thin layer of spandex swimwear.  It’s quite clear to me that at some point we stop giving a shit about unimportant things, and just dive in and live.



Leave a Comment
  1. smalltownsmalltimes / Feb 24 2010 6:14 am


  2. Romi / Feb 23 2010 9:28 am


    Your post was lovely and funny and stirring; this is what I remember from your blog, and hopefully I will be a much more regular reader/blogger! 🙂

    Also, I’m so glad you’ve found an exercise that doesn’t torture after the fact; sending good thoughts to your back 🙂

  3. Pammy Girl / Feb 22 2010 12:35 pm

    I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not horrified at boobs drooping to my knees. Give me a few years though and maybe I’ll be OK with it. MAYBE

  4. Taoist Biker / Feb 22 2010 7:31 am

    I used to swim laps over lunch because it was the only exercise I could really do in mid-day and not take evening time away from family. I gave up on it. I love to swim, but I HATE lap swimming. Even though it was really good for me.

    MAN I hope you get your back issues sorted out. You are way too young to have to deal with that sort of chronic horridness. 😦 (Not that I’d wish it on a 99-year-old!)

  5. David / Feb 21 2010 9:11 am

    Sorry to hear about your back not fusing. And that you have to go to the pool to get some decent exercise. But god bless you girl for your refreshingly mature attitudes on, er, maturity. There’s a health center/gym at the college where I work, and they do a brisk business among the locals who faithfully come in to work out and swim. Something IS different about the swimmers … now that you mention it. They have a little more joie de vivre. I hope you have fun with them and your foam dumbells. God speed on the healing of your poor back Maleesha.

  6. Grumpy / Feb 21 2010 5:49 am

    Totally agree about the inconvenience of swimming! and at my gym it is likely that you turn up in your togs and the damn pool is closed for cleaning or some shit.

    However, you are spot on about the old swimming folk – they all seem so happy, chatty and proud to put it all out there.

  7. Fawn / Feb 20 2010 9:18 pm

    Awesome post, Maleesha. I used to go to hot spring spas with my Oma when I lived in Germany. Everyone there was old. And naked, because it’s Germany. That was great for me, because I could strut around naked with all the rest of them and think, “Heh, I know I’m the best-looking one here!”

    That stinks about your back. You have to prepare for a lifetime of pain DESPITE a fourth back surgery?

  8. morethananelectrician / Feb 20 2010 2:33 pm

    My wife and I seem to always end up with “older people” in social situations…but I am still at a point where I might avoid anyone in a bathing suit. It is my own theory…the fewer the clothes, the greater distance I keep away from the person. Unless it is Kristen Bell…

  9. Lauri / Feb 20 2010 11:57 am

    Great post! I love that last line, and hope I get there – and dive in.

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