The Swimmer – Mother at Sea

My mother, the swimmer, in Halfmoon BayMy mother only learned to swim in her fifties after we moved to Winnipeg. There were few swimmers among southern Manitoba farms kids, and grandmother had a terror of water, losing one of her 11 children when he fell on his face in an icy puddle and drowned. I was an eager swimmer, cycling to Neche for a swim most afternoons in the summer in the early 60s. Check out my collection boy to read a poem or two about the experience.Fitness was one of my mum’s enthusiasms, especially after moving to the city from the country which tended to have enough exercise for both my mother and father. They did their “jerks” every morning as she called the 10 BX calisthenics, originally developed for soldiers, but popularized in the 1950s and 60s for their fitness benefits. Mum thought the 5 BX developed for women to be for sissies, and she and dad could be heard do their jumping jacks, sit-up and push ups every morning at the end of their bed  on the purple shag rug.

Mum  and Dad were alumni of the U of M (and we’ve set up a U of M scholarship for kids in the three high schools in which they did most of their teaching, MCI, W.C. Miller and Niverville Collegiate) and bought an annual fitness pass after they completed their swimming lessons and swam in the U of M Pool and the Princess Margaret Pool, when it was opened in suburban Fort Richmond where they lived, because the water was warmer.

I swam this morning, with the pain medication making it possible, at the Sargent pool because the Sherbrook pool has been closed for structural reasons. This is a pity, because the water is warmer and there are a lot of us old arthritic geezers (I’m the youngest geezer) that like to swim laps there, and stand around the one or two jets that are pushing more water into the pool.

This is my all time favourite picture of my mother, from her active and retired period, at least. One of the reasons to learn to swim was my sister’s life on the west coast, particularly their place on Redrooffs Road. Mum swam in Half Moon Bay whenever she could and seemed to find swimming on her back more relaxing than swimming on her stomach. She died in 2000, insisting on being buried in the Glenlea Cemetery, provided she was buried in a watertight concrete vault. She did not want her bones floating in the Red River, the river prone to flooding.





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