Last Saturday as I walked the last mile from the S-Bahn station to the boathouse, I seemed to be alone on the path, but others emerged through the classic Berlin gloom and drizzle. An older woman with a long grey ponytail sailed down the hill on her bike. A blind man with a stick tapped his way along the sidewalk across the street from me, making slow but steady progress. All three of us were heading to the boathouse to row.
I had noticed the blind man for the first time a few weeks ago, feeling his way along the wall up the stairs of the boathouse toward the men’s locker room. I was somewhat awed when I saw him; if I feel deaf and mute around Germans, it’s a temporary condition that can be remedied by a return to the land of English speakers. His condition has no such land of grace.
The woman on her bike turned out to be Helga, the woman I had met on my first day at the club. She seems to be in her mid-70s and has rowed here since the club allowed women to join nearly 40 years ago. Her lined face and curved back may show the crush of age, but her eyes and wit are sharp and she is always ready to climb into a boat to cox or row. Continue reading