16-MaryGraceWhalenAll my life, I have envied people who can swim. That little voice in my head would always say “someday.” Now I am 68 years old and profoundly deaf. I wondered how I would achieve my goal without the ability to communicate in the water. My mother didn’t swim, and my father had a near-drowning experience as a child so I didn’t have much exposure to pools or the ocean. Raising two children and work commitments took much of my time over the years, and time passes.

I’ve had a cochlear implant for the last ten years that enables me to hear when I’m wearing it. Until last year, the device could not be submerged in water. But Cochlear Americas came out with a waterproof encasement that would allow me to pursue my dream.

So last year I was excited to get started. I called and visited regional venues to try to find an instructor who is sensitive to my special needs. With less than two years until my 70th birthday, I felt that I am too old to NOT know how to swim. Online, I read testimonials from people like me who had their own fears. Coming to the Rye YMCA, everyone—starting with JoAnne at the front desk to Vickie Kortelis—alleviated my fears. Vickie was very generous with her time and explained it was doable.

Jessica, my swim instructor, is acutely attuned to who I am and is sensitive to my fears. I started out with the basics a child learns. In the beginning, I was just putting my face in the water and it was quite a feat. Now I feel comfortable in the pool! She’ll say “Let’s do that again, just one more time,” and it seems more doable in little pieces.

One day, coming across the length of the pool with my face in the water I could hear myself blowing bubbles and I thought to myself, I am really doing this! I love observing the swimmers from the lobby window. I take note of their form. Swimming looks like the most perfect exercise. Someday, it’ll be me doing laps like that in the Brookside pool. That’s enough to keep me going!