Bruce Easson never learned how to swim.
At age 12, he says he sank like a stone during lessons and people had to rescue him.
“I got into the pool and I sank to the bottom,” says Easson, now 84. “I never learned how to get to the surface so at age 12, I decided I was going to be a non-swimmer.”
Complicating matters as he grew older were health and mobility issues arising from Cerebral Palsy, a condition he has had all his life. That made it difficult to move, let alone jump into a pool or lake to go for a swim. He said it has been 60 years or so since he even tried.
Yet, the desire to take the plunge never entirely vanished and when his granddaughter took to the water and became a competitive swimmer, Easson decided it was time to finally get his feet wet.
“It’s time to learn,” he said during his first lesson at Panorama Recreation Centre. “I’ve decided to fulfil one of my life ambitions — to learn to swim and then swim with my granddaughter.”
Easson’s granddaughter, Alexa Bryant, is a Grade 10 and swims competitively in Victoria. She said she is impressed with her grandad’s spirit.
“I didn’t know he decided to learn to swim,” she said. “I’m pretty impressed.”
Alexa added she’s looking forward to swimming a length of the pool with her grandfather — and even letting him finish first.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” added Easson’s daughter, Ondine.
“He has always been so determined. He has had his ups and downs with his health over the last four or five years. At one point, he even had to re-learn how to walk.”
A strong will and an optimistic outlook has helped Easson battle through health problems all his life. Now, he’s taking on a new challenge with help from the staff at his home at Sidney’s Rest Haven Lodge, and instructors at Panorama.
Brenda Hennigar, executive director of the Rest Haven Lodge Foundation said Easson approached their staff, asking if they could help him fulfill an item on his bucket list. Tapping into her connections at Panorama (her husband Ian is the Centre’s manager), the lessons were arranged.
“His will to learn is amazing,” said Cathy Watts, Panorama’s assistant aquatics co-ordinator and Easson’s swim coach.
“He just dove in, put his face in the water and started floating.”
Watts said it will take him a while to be able to swim a length of the pool.
“He will be using muscles that he hasn’t used in a while,” she explained. “But he definitely has the will.”
Easson said he wasn’t nervous getting into the water, especially with all the support he has.
“I have a granddaughter who is a competitive swimmer,” he said. “We are going to see who’s going to be getting into the pool first.”
Easson added he has more bucket list items and said he will be taking them on, one at a time.