Partially deaf, Willie half-shouts “eighty three” when I ask him his age. He has just hunched up from the rope machine where I watched him hand over hand pull down a hawser to his count of 100. He smiles at me. We shake hands and he asks again, as per our pattern, “Howm I doin”? “Like a million dollars”, I say. He smiles broadly, this short hobbity man who has found something new. We cannot speak as loud head-banger music thrashes around us, but I know his story, a widower who lost his wife a few years ago, became terribly depressed, spent his days and nights doing little and finally made his way to a gym at the urging of a friend where he has remade himself, lost his belly, gained muscles in his shoulders and chest, and now will tell me that his neighbor, years younger than him, can barely walk to the mailbox and that Willie must sometimes help him out, look after him.
Willie is one of those who does not enter the ‘gym-zone’, the trance like focus of the serious iron man or woman. Instead, he pushes then talks, lifts and meanders saying Hi to all. He has chosen not to give up. Those who spur us on are likely to show up anywhere.
(The photo is not of Willie, but it’s close.)