At 5:30 in the morning, small talk doesn’t flow easily. It can take years to get to know your poolmates, one incoherent sentence at a time. But over time friendships are made, your tribe expands, and you sometimes find inspiration in people who were once strangers.
Betty Weaver is one of these inspirational forces (not just because of her name). Betty’s a feisty 89 years old. She’s been a pool regular long before I joined. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30am, she’s at the pool with her duffle bag ready to swim, almost without exception.
As with most of my heroes her accomplishments are many, but her attitude is what I find most remarkable.
She makes all of her own swimsuits. (I didn’t even know this was possible) Most days she climbs in and out of the pool on her own and on days when her back is bad, she uses the chair. She doesn’t love this, but it’s better than not swimming. Once she’s in, she swims laps in the first lane for 45 minutes.
Once in a while, not very often, she has falls. When she gets up – on her own or with help – she’s usually laughing and calling herself silly. She claims that she’s getting better at falling, because mostly she falls forward, which is much better than backward and bumping her head.
When she was 74, she started collecting swimming medals at the Senior Olympics. (She notes that she would’ve started a year earlier, but her daughter had scheduled her for a white water rafting trip) She’ll joyfully tell you that her secret to winning is outliving her competition. And if you stay on the topic long enough, you might learn that last summer, she gave her medal away to another senior athlete who hadn’t won a medal before.
She’s always been an independent spirit. When she was 2 her favorite thing to say was “I do it, myself.” She had her own role model for aging happily; a friend who lived to 103. Despite losing most of her sight, wearing uncomfortable braces because of her horribly arthritic legs, and developing mouth cancer in her late 90s which forced her to eat baby food until she died, she was always happy and had a great attitude about life. “She took things as they came and made the best of what she had. She smiled all the time and was so nice.”
When I see Betty in the morning, I always hope I can be just like her. I told her so once and she sloughed off the compliment and broke her strategy down to the most simple process…
“When I wake up in the morning and I check to see what still moves. Whatever’s still moving, I move it as much as possible that day.”
Simple. And then she smiles and laughs.
Betty’s one of the biggest benefits of early morning swimming. Her smile is as inspirational as her discipline. She provides the most colorful commentary about my Betty Designs swimsuits; seeing her name everywhere and having her own team delights her. She’s especially silly when it says “badass” on the butt.
My Betty Teammates and I decided that Betty really is an original and should have some Betty gear, so we recently gave her a visor. She loved it! But the next time I saw her, she was concerned. She’d gone home and looked up what “badass” meant and it sounded awful to her – “someone who’s difficult to deal with and mean-tempered”. That didn’t sound good to her. I explained it was more of the “distinctively tough or powerful” part of the definition that we’re talking about. That she was OK with and was happy to be a badass again.
Betty turns 90 in November. She warned that we better not do anything for her birthday. (She’s fighty, sometimes.) I think it would be impossible not to celebrate. Not just making it to 90, but for being a beautiful badass at 90 – and for the wonderful possibility that we could be, too!