by Joe Shea
October 13, 2010
CHILEAN RESCUE EFFORT WEAVES A RAGGED THREAD OF HOPE INTO A FLAG OF TRIUMPH
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- My knees are killing me. I'm either suffering from Old Guy Knee or Big Guy Knee. I like to think I'm suffering from Former Athlete Knee, which is usually a combination of both.
I was an athlete of one form or another for nearly 30 years, playing soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, football, bicycle racing, and running - sports that wreak havoc on an athlete's knees, and I was never very careful about where or how I hurled my body.
Unfortunately, I also have the same build of a former athlete, which is a big part of the problem. Imagine putting a truck on a car suspension. The car slows down, the shocks make an awful grinding noise if it tries goes too fast, and the car grunts whenever it sits down on the couch.
I'm working to lighten the load, watching what I eat, and going for walks with my wife on a daily basis. Plus, the nearly one-mile walk from my car to my office has been helping. However, my exercise regimen got derailed temporarily when I went on a men's retreat with some other guys from my church.
The two-day retreat was filled with just what you would expect: a bunch of middle-aged guys trying to recapture their youth by playing Ultimate Frisbee and football with guys 10 to 15 years their junior, and 25 to 50 percent smaller.
I did all right during Frisbee. My knees didn't hurt, I was able to run without any difficulty, and I could stil throw. After a short break, we played football. I sat out for another 15 minutes, which gave my knees a chance to recover and remember that they weren't in shape for what I had just put them through, let alone that they were still angry about the last 10 years of Ultimate Frisbee. They thought it would be a good idea to voice their frustration by stiffening up.
To show them who was boss, I went back out for some football. It wasn't going to be as bad, because I was on the line, and only had to run about five steps at a time. Still, five steps multiplied by dozens of plays aggravated them even further. My knees were raging by the time we were finished. In fact, after sitting down for a few more minutes, my right knee nearly seized up, and walking was a chore.
That night, as we drove home, four of us stopped at a Starbucks for a quick drink. Two guys, including Dave, our executive pastor, went inside, while the other guy walked with me to make sure I didn't collapse into a wailing heap in the parking lot.
When I staggered in, some punk teenager, barely out of diapers, looked at me and said, "You walk like an old man."
A million responses raced through my head. ... "You look like something I find in tightly-coiled piles on my lawn," "Oh yeah? Your mom doesn't love you." But I knew it would not be fair to verbally dope slap this coffeehouse urchin, especially with Dave standing five feet away, watching the whole thing.
"That's because I am an old man," I said, too tired to come up with something that was clever, but wouldn't make the little rat cry.
"I like this kid," laughed Dave, turning to me. "What do you want? I'll buy."
Having been kicked while I was down, I had my revenge: I ordered a large of the most expensive drink I could think of. Then I limped off to the old man's room. When I came back, Dave and the other two guys were still laughing about the kid, who was gone.
"You knew that was a setup, didn't you?" asked Dave.
"What was?" I said.
"That kid. When we got in here, I told him to say you walked like an old man. He did it so naturally, I was surprised. I'm more surprised you didn't just lay into him."
"I wanted to, but I didn't want him to go to some men's retreat in 30 years, crying about some mean guy who made him feel bad when the guy's friend set him up."
Over the last few days, my knees have gotten better, and I can get around with a minimum of difficulty, but I still feel a twinge or two when I get up in the morning.
I just need them to get better for next year. I'm in the mood for some tackle football.
AR Humor Writer Erik Decker publishes thiscolumn and other articles at his http://laughing-stalk.blogspot.com>Laughing Stalk blog.