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POPS AND HIS MUSCLES

Pops Sporting His Six Pak

As I pondered questions posed by fellow bloggers, I decided that if I had a time machine there were a few sporting events I’d love to go back in time to see. I would journey to the 1930’s when my father was in his early twenties.  There was no television back then and my dad and his friends spent their play time doing gymnastics.  He was in wonderful physical shape, sporting a six pack where I lug what looks more like a keg.  His favorite routines utilized the parallel bars, pommel horse and rings.  The rings were his favorite. An uncle told me that dad was the guy who could make a perfect 90 degree angle, pointing his legs straight out in front of him and then hold the position forever.

I didn’t get into gymnastics like pops did, although he was relentless in his efforts to get me to straighten up as I stood on his hands. He wanted to lift me up and then stand up himself. I think I was afraid of what might come next if he got me up there. He could walk all over the house on his hands…he did hand stands as easily as head stands. Trying to get me to do it, he’d hold me by my ankles and coax me to take a few steps but I failed dismally every time.  And that was long before I grew a  keg. I wonder if I love watching the Cirque du Soliel perform because it brings me closer to my dad.

Pops was also a long distance runner. He told me about winning a 20 mile race which earned him a bicycle. Surprisingly, he was a winner even though he smoked from the age of nine until he was in his 50’s. And what a terrific swimmer he was! He tried over and over to teach me but I didn’t learn until I was about 10 years old, at camp and on my own. I knew how, I suppose, but was afraid to try. He came out to visit after I had been there a week but because I hadn’t swum my four lengths of the pool, neither one of us could go into the deep end. Pops was pissed. After he went home, I asked the counselor to let me try my swimming test. I did it without drowning. But there were no more visiting days before my two weeks was up. My fellow campers would never be privy to the most perfect swan dive I’ve ever seen.

Pops Sporting his Bathing Suit

Pops Sporting His Bathing Suit

Over the years Pops and I played street-league softball and he took up bowling after I had already been on the lanes for several years. I enjoyed the sport and was good at it. He was obsessed. He bowled 10 pin three or four nights a week and after that practiced on the 5 pin alleys, just to improve his accuracy. When he began beating me, I quit for a time. It wasn’t fun any more. Especially when he’d flaunt his score sheets. He was extremely  competitive and so was I. Pops also loved to curl and was usually the skip. I subbed for his lead man one afternoon but burnt a rock I was sweeping down the ice (nudged it with my foot). A screaming match ensued and I stormed off the ice.  That is one game I want to go back to.  I’d like to do it again so I could show him the respect he wanted so badly. Respect he deserved.

In his 60’s, he bought a pair of roller skates so he could go to the rink with my oldest daughter. Then I heard the stories about how he used to do all kinds of stuff on skates, including dancing and who knows what else.

My dad had no fear, or so I thought. I remember taking him on the backside of the racetrack one morning to show him my new newly-acquired racehorse. At one point he stood against the wall on the walkway at  the corner of a barn. He was calm as can be as one horse after another pranced by, some within inches of him. “Weren’t you afraid?” I asked. “I was scared to death,” he replied. So he knew fear, but never let it get the best of him. Unlike myself. I’ve always taken the easy way out.

I took part in most sports as a kid and usually excelled. I loved baseball, basketball and football and more often than not played on teams a year or two older than me. Marksmanship was my best event. At 14, I out shot seasoned adults from the first day I lay prone with a 22 rifle. About a year later, after a trophy the size of the Stanley Cup was delivered to our door, Pops came home with a Mossberg 22 complete with match rifle sights. “I won it in a raffle,” he said. Yeah, sure. Hockey was a different story. I skated on my ankles and could never make the team. I still blame the ill-fitting second-hand skates my parents bought me and to this day I hate the game.

I wish I could take my daughters and especially my grandchildren back in time so they could watch me playing baseball, football and other sports — when I was at my best. Although my father lived to 87, he and his great grandchildren never met. I would so love for them to see him in the gym, on the beach or the bowling lane. If children could see and even understand a little of the past, it might well change their future in some small, positive way. I’m convinced it would put Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in a whole new light.

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