Swimming Lesson

by Bob Smiley as told to Bob Smiley

We had to join a new gym because . . . uh, well, that’s not important.

The important thing is that we found a gym with a good pool, great weights and, most important, a place where no one knows me.

Last week, during my first visit, I decided to swim some laps in the pool. I had a great time and found a ton of coins. The pool had a fancy French name: “fountain.”

I guess that pool’s for adults only, because a guy came over and asked me to get out. He showed me another pool that was actually inside the building. Eager to resume my laps, I jumped into a lane. I think Methuselah was swimming next to me! He was really old.

I love people who are my great-grandparents’ age, because they have the coolest stories when you take time to get to know them.

“Good morning, sir!” I said.

“Good morning, young man!” he said. “You must think I’m pretty old.”

“Well,” I said to the wrinkled man, “either that, or you’ve been in the water way too long.”

“I’m 96,” he said, “but I’ll bet I can outswim you. Want to race?”


Not only do I love old people, I also respect them as the Bible says. And obviously, because he didn’t realize I was Average Boy (I had left my cape in the locker room), I didn’t think it was fair to race him.

“That’s OK,” I said.

“You’re not chicken, are you?” He laughed until his teeth fell out.

That was it. I’ve been called a turkey before, but chicken is going too far!

“You’re on!” I said.

“We’ll swim down and back!” he challenged.

I was kind of afraid that, at his age, he’d get to the end of the pool and forget he was racing. But I agreed to the terms.

“I’ll count to three,” he said, proceeding to count in Roman numerals. “I, I-I, I-I-I!”

I couldn’t tell if he was counting or if he had a stuttering problem.


On his sixth I, we splashed forward. In a burst of speed, I pulled ahead by 20 feet. I reached the end of the pool and attempted to do a flip turn, like they do in the Olympics. That was a bad idea.

I launched into a triple somersault. The next thing I saw was Old Man River darting past me like a dolphin that’s had a quintuple shot of espresso!

After losing the race, I sprawled out on the side of the pool, panting like crazy.

I looked over at the old guy. He was treading water, grinning and laughing.

“Man,” I said, “you’re a fast swimmer.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Well, these help.”

He then stuck two gigantic swimming flippers out of the water.


Old people are funny. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents nearby, spend time getting to know them. The Bible says to seek wisdom, and older generations have tons of it. You might even get a few laughs along the way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get my flippers and challenge Methuselah to a rematch!

This article originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2006 by Bob Smiley. Used by permission. Illustration © Gary Locke.