My husband often gave me gifts -- many for no reason at all -- such as trips to foreign lands, jewelry, excursions to New York to see plays, etc. However, one of the gifts he presented to me with delight was not appreciated. I had just retired from teaching and wanted nothing more than to sit in a chair and never hear anyone call for Mrs. Pruett or Dr. Pruett again. Actually, I wanted to vegetate. Instead, my husband, who retired before me, signed us up for a New Life program. (I had no idea how lasting this contract was to be until I had to send a certified death certificate before he was allowed not to be a member anymore.) I assured him I was not going. Since he knew me well, he did not argue but stated we would have to pay anyway. I went. I was so out of shape that the trainers followed me with their eyes and their presences to make sure I did not die on their shifts. I persevered until the impossible became possible, even the classes. Thank goodness I did. My fitness allowed me to care for my husband in his final illness and enables me to do many things others my age cannot or will not do. As one wonderful trainer, who had earlier followed me with fear, commented and complimented, “You are fit.” I am, but New Life has also given me many amusing memories.
Some of the unexpected pleasures came from former students. I noticed a young woman gazing at me. I thought, “She thinks I am too old to be doing this.” Finally, she approached me and said, “I know you are not Dr. Pruett; she’s probably not with us anymore. You do so remind me of her.” I know my mouth fell open and, even today, I do not know what I said to her. Not too many weeks later, another young woman came rushing out of the locker room shouting, “Dr. Pruett, Dr. Pruett, I’m so glad to see you. I asked my mother about you, and she said she thought you were dead.” How glad I was the report was untrue, yet how delightful for a student to remember a teacher and ask when returning to town. Another student, whom I had taught in the 10th grade, saw me and announced to her friends, “Just look at her. She taught me in the 10th grade, and she looks better than I do.” Another student from years back encountered me at the post office and remarked, “You look so much better than you did when you taught me; I know, you must have had a face lift.” Face lift, resurrection from the dead, or whatever, I’m glad I did not sit in the rocking chair and vegetate!
Another day at New Life, I was garbed only in a towel, getting ready for a shower, when I heard a loud noise. I rushed toward the direction of the noise and said, “What was that?” A voice answered, “I fell.” I went to one of the stalls where a very large, at least 400 pound, woman lay prostate. When I assured myself she was not seriously hurt, I had a real problem not laughing, but I knew I could not move her by myself. The towel having long fallen by the wayside, I was totally naked. I said, “Should I go get a man to help us?” She answered, “Get three or four.” Then, I could hardly move, trying to stifle the laughter. I could not leave the woman, so I was delighted for a woman trainer to come in and assume responsibility. I, to the surprise of strangers, broke into giggles for no reason the rest of the day.
One hot summer day, when the air conditioning was not working, I finished my workout thinking, if I had good sense, I would go home. Not a dry thread was on my outfit. My hair was also wet with perspiration. I reached to get my spa bag, thinking I might not be able to carry it, being so exhausted, when a masculine arm reached around and picked up my bag. I was amazed and demurred, “I can do it myself.” Then came the amusing question: “Do you have a significant other?” Having taught many young people who delight in teasing me, I looked to make sure he was not only of them. Struggling to get my bag and no longer tired, I heard him repeat the question. Thankfully, because of my “hip” students, I knew what a significant other was and replied, “No, but I have a husband of 50-something years.”
One of the best gifts my husband gave me was a membership in New Life. I hope that it will continue to keep me healthy and assure me that I will not be lifting paper plates in a nursing home!