Alberta Mullins turned 75 two weeks ago Sunday, and although she might have partied during the weekend, she was in fine shape come Monday for the party she has attended every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 20 years.
"You have to tell each other when you're not going to be there," Mullins says. "Because when somebody doesn't show up, we call them. We worry."
Some of the people see each other only here, in the pool, dressed in swimsuits accessorized with floaty barbells and webbed gloves and the draping of a colorful noodle.
"I had arthritis so bad when I started, I could barely stand up," Mullins says. Now she's popping up and down in the water, kicking, lifting and keeping everything moving while squeezing specific body parts when so instructed and walking just fine, thanks.
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This is the Lexington, Ky., High Street YMCA's 9 a.m. water aquatics class, and it is not for the faint, the foolish or the unfriendly.
Here, "we're family," Mullins says. "My husband died five years ago, and they all really pulled me through."
They know one another's children's names. They know one another's grandchildren's names. They discuss adoptions, art, the decline of Western civilization as we know it, their physical infirmities and who came to dinner last night. They go to lunch a few times a year and drag their lifeguard with them. They play Trivial Pursuit while doing a bit of in-pool cool-down.
"We here at the Y are about mind, body and spirit," says Christy Morgan, the instructor, who knows exactly which person in the pool can answer the question about Spain, the one about movies, the one about Freud.
"You got to be quick on your feet with this bunch," says Patsy Gibson, who is as fast as anybody here.
In the pool this minute are, among others, an Episcopal priest, a retired schoolteacher, a University of Kentucky professor, the wife of the man in charge of the university's weight-loss program, a lawyer, two artists, a licensed clinical social worker, and Bob Fox, husband of radio talk show host Sue Wylie.
"I've been representing the opposite sex here for 20 years," says Fox, who is delighted by the company he is keeping. "They make it a lot of fun."
And, truth is, there isn't much they don't know.
Morgan, pregnant and due in January, says, "It's like having 15 grandmothers" advising her.
In mid-leg lift, she tells them the baby is a girl and her name will be Eva Sophia. (Once they're out of the water, the sonogram is on serious display.)
Gibson says Morgan is very patient and "doesn't mind us exercising our jaws."
Lindsay Shaddy, an occasional Lexington visitor, always drops in when she's in town.
"It's like attending a graduate class; it's an executive briefing," she says. "We talk about the popular governance and about ancient civilizations. This group knows everything about what's going on, and you just have to listen to learn."
Ed Mepham is the Episcopal priest, who, at 83, says this class is good for the body as well as the soul.
"It's a lot of laughing," he says as water drips off his nose.
Lest you think this is easy, be advised that Gibson's 11-year-old granddaughter joined them once.
When she finally got out of the water, the girl was panting.
"She said, `I thought you just got in the water and waved your arms around,'" Gibson said.
If only she had known.