On the Water Again

I can’t hike down the hillside to the lake

Rowing was the coolest and most unlikely thing I did in my 60’s. I surprised myself by loving it. To the chagrin of my coach i was often swept away by the stillness of the lake in the early mornings or the beauty of the mist shrouding the mountains. My focus didn’t make me a great team player. I often held up the group.

I had never been athletic, but I was fit enough, so I could do my share lifting the boats. And I enjoyed the power of the rowing. Always a fair-weather girl, I didn’t like rainy or cold days which left me out of the ardent, inner circle of rowers. My rowing days came and went.

Off and on through the last 10 years I have thought of rowing again. I lived closer to the lake and could make the time. But when I had my stroke It was no longer an option.

One of my most uplifting visitors in the hospital, however, was a very athletic physical therapist who had suffered a severe and massive stroke at a young age. She seemed visibly recovered and was impressive – running, riding her bike, and doing all of the things she loved before her stroke. I knew it hadn’t been easy and was encouraged by her tenacity, but you who follow my blog know that I am not really that tough-minded, conquer-all-adversity person. The adaptive rowing that she mentioned seemed way out of reach as I was learning to walk again.

At my monthly stroke meetings I heard again about an adaptive rowing group. The PT and her partner (also a PT) were a part of the leadership. I was somewhat daunted, but intrigued. I went to the practices a couple of times but found myself still having difficulties with my affected arm and subluxation of that shoulder. So I waited, watching.

In April I tried it again. I managed the rowing machines and felt empowered. I could do it. But, on the morning I was due to actually get in a boat, I was in tears before I was even dressed. My husband helped me with my jacket and gently questioned me.

“What is scaring you?”

I sobbed out my insecurities. With his usual pragmatism he told me to stay home where I was safe.

“How could I be safer? Two PT’s and a doctor, and several experienced rowers?”

So I went to the turnout today that day. I sat at the side of the lake like a prisoner awaiting the firing squad as one or two boats went out. (I was scheduled toward the last when I would have all the help I could potentially need.) Like a miracle the wind whipped up before the third boat loaded. Then came the announcement that the turnout cancelled. I felt such relief that I was ashamed of myself. But I drove home with resolve.

I spent some time on the floor the next week. I wanted to be sure I was capable of crawling, to know that I could pull myself up when I made it out of that boat. No matter how they managed to assist me, I knew the time would come when it was up to me. I couldn’t stay on the dock forever.

The next week I was ready!

Let me give a shout out to the people of the Ashland Rowing Club who take time out from their own training and rowing to help me and others like me. Toni, Marielke, Lia, Leslie, and all of the other volunteers are heroes. Theirs is a gift of love and courage given to those of us with limitations.

This looks impressive, but i was tethered to the dock!

I made it onto the water. I actually held the oars in my hands. And I made it out of the boat. It wasn’t pretty, but – Success! And I’m ready to go again.

I don’t know how far I’ll get it. I don’t know how fast I’ll go. I don’t care. With lots of help –  on the water is good enough for me!



Photos by Ashland Rowing Club


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