Saturday, January 22, 2011

Once Upon A Time

<==See that?  That’s me about a hundred years ago when the world was fresh and new, John Lennon was still alive and Richard Milhous Nixon (A.K.A. Tricky Dick) was President of these United By God States of America.
I don’t suppose I need to tell you that not only can I no longer do that particular bit of physical eye candy, I don’t exactly look much like eye candy either.  My 6-pack ABS and washboard lats are more like a kegger and a sponge cushion.  I’m still dangerously good looking <wink> but  this body – the half of it that still works, anyway, is built more for comfort than speed.
In the photograph above, I weigh 145 pounds, have 16 ½ inch arms, a 44 inch chest and 29 inch waist.  I could leg press 600 on the Universal weight machine in the gym at school, and bench 10 reps of 350.  I ran a 4:30 mile, and would run 5 miles just to loosen up. 
These days if you see me standing at the end of the driveway with my cane, headed for the mailbox, you’re seeing me at a full out sprint.  I’ve gone from back handsprings the length of a football field and a double back flip my 6 foot tall coach could walk under to considering it a successful outing if I can shower and dry off without having to sit down.
It’s not the years – I think I’m doing pretty good for a guy who is peering over the fence at 60.  My father  - well not sure, but the man who raised me didn’t get this far, and my mother’s father didn’t look this good when he was my age – back then people my age looked old, you know?  I’m 4½ years older than my wife.  She looks like she’s 20 years younger.  Most definitely easy on the eyes, and I’m not complaining.
The thing is, as I tell my kids, it’s not the years, it’s the miles.  And the miles include the stupidity.  Really, what kind of idiot needs to do back handsprings the length of a football field?  I was a light tumbler – my particular technique was very quiet even on the bare hardwood floors on which I first learned gymnastics, but it does take its toll eventually.  As does tumbling on asphalt most of the length of the 5-mile long King Orange Parade  on New Year’s Eve in front of my high school marching band – something I did twice in my high school career.  The wear and tear adds up over time, and now my knees, back and various other bits are paying the freight, so to say.
Of course, having two strokes didn’t help.  In fact, if anything, all that gymnastics stuff I did as a kid has probably helped my rehabilitation.  The muscles remember things, even if there is a traffic jam from the brain to the muscle.  It’s strange.  When I try to ‘will’ my left side to do some things, I cannot.  However, if I have to do the very same thing by reflex, I can, so I know the muscle remembers.  The brain and muscle just aren’t on speaking terms.  That’s all it is.  I have to be a sort of mediator to get them talking to each other again.  I mean, you can fire a stubborn employee, divorce a non-compliant spouse, but how realistic is it to cut off your nose to spite your face?
No, I’m not thinking about divorcing anyone.  I’m crazy but not stupid.
Physical Therapy was the starting place.  That and the prayers of God’s people.  I have almost no feeling on my left side, yet I can walk.  I can type – well, two fingers on the left hand and lots of corrections – and all of this without being able to feel it.  That is miraculous!  That is the evidence of this magnificent masterpiece of engineering and design that God spoke into existence, and we call the human body.  Even the most advanced computerized robotics cannot duplicate the smoothness of motion, range of motion, or dexterity of the body God designed, and He has my body, half of it anyway, doing it from memory, because I can’t feel what I’m doing.
I really shouldn’t be walking.  Or tying a shoelace.  Or buttoning the little buttons on the collars of my button down collar oxford dress shirts.  OK – Linda does them for me, and sometimes I can’t put my left hand in my pocket because my left pinky sticks out and gets snagged in the crease between fingers on that side.  But after nine months of rehab, the therapists ‘graduated’ me  because the muscles were pretty much doing everything they should do.  Therapy can’t make the nerves repath themselves.  The nerves either will or they won’t.
Once upon a time there was this kid who was devastatingly good looking, had abs of steel and great legs.  Once upon a time.  As for the devastatingly good looks?  You get that ‘once upon a time’ is a clue, right?
Oh, lighten up, will ya?  Sheesh.
See you at the Gym on Tuesday.
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