If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be a lifeguard in retirement, I would have been at the least puzzled. But 20 years ago, I had arrived at a new Lutheran (ELCA) parish in Souderton, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. I would have been pretty preoccupied.
20 years later we were living in the Upper Valley – having moved from California where I retired from teaching children with autism. When my wife, Candace, took the position as graphic designer at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center she shared that I had been a lifeguard—and she was told I needed to become a lifeguard, to meet the pressing need at UVAC for lifeguards.
My mother was a Minnesotan, so there were two things we needed to be able to do: swim and ice skate. It had taken me three tries to pass my Beginner—I was terrified of the 15 foot deep end at the massive pool where I had to do my deep water test. I got over that when we moved back to Minneapolis where we swam in lakes. I always headed for the deep water float, to avoid the muck on the bottom.
I took my first lifesaving class to meet a Physical Education requirement for my BS in elementary education at the University of Pittsburgh. It was helpful at the camps I worked at during the summer: Camp Fuller by the Sea in Rhode Island, and Camp Kenmont in Kent, Connecticut.
So, renewing my Lifeguard certification didn’t seem entirely foreign . . . but I realized it had been three years since I had been in a pool. Ashley Ellis, the aquatic director, was eager to have me join two young ladies, probably at least 40 years younger than me, for the lifeguard renewal. We worked together well, in the 2 and a half days we spent learning and reviewing the lifesaving techniques currently part of the Lifeguard Certification course. I left UVAC sore, with scraped knees and bruises on my elbows, but confident that I knew what I needed to support swimmers in the UVAC pool. Ashely had me come in to review the skills we covered on Sunday, and seemed a bit surprised with how confidently I executed them.
So, I look forward to meeting you, the members and families who will be using the pool. By all means, stop by to say hello, but don’t be offended if I don’t look you in the eyes. I will be busy scanning the pool to see that you, your family and others who are using the pool, are safe.
By Jerry Webster, UVAC Lifeguard, Member, Retired Teacher and Pastor