Tuesday, January 26, 2016
What I Ain't Gonna Be Doin'
Throughout my life I've discovered (and eventually accepted, more or less painlessly) all sorts of things I'm never going to be--or do. In kindergarten I learned I was not going to be an artist. When the teacher (Mrs. Dugan--a great one) passed out the rectangular sheets of manila paper and the crayons ("crans," we called them) and had us draw things, I could see--right away--that other kids in the class could come up with things that actually resembled the assignment. And mine? Well, let's just say that my mom was probably pretty grateful that the refrigerator magnet had not yet been invented. No need to generate upset stomachs in the kitchen.
I sucked at art.
I sucked at music, too. Oh, sure, I could sing on pitch (usually) and hack away at the piano and, later, a banjo and guitar, I knew what a musician really sounded like because there were a couple of them in our house. My dad had a wonderful tenor voice--I mean wonderful (I'm certain it was one of his attractions that had originally drawn Mom into his orbit). And my older brother, Richard (by three years), played the piano with passion and with a talent far beyond mine. (And he went on to become the music critic for the Boston Globe for many years.) I quit piano after a while, to the relief of pretty much everyone. And my guitar, unplayed, has lived in my closet for decades.
Later on in high school, I learned I was not going to be mathematician. I could sort of keep up (mostly), but other kids zipped through the assignments, caught the teachers' errors, and in general seemed to be of a different species than I--a smart one.
In the summer between high school and college I learned, playing baseball for a team in nearby Windham, Ohio, that I was not going to make the Majors. Windham had a catcher who was just a lot better than I, in every way (even looks: He was tall, handsome, ripped; I was small, homely, accelerating toward pudgy). That summer I heard pitches I could not see; I swung in hope rather than in confidence. And my baseball career was soon over.
In college, it was basketball. In 1962, I'd been on the county all-star team (2nd team, as my friend and former WRA colleague Tom Davis always reminds me), but when I joined the freshman team for Hiram College, I learned that I was too slow, short, unskilled, maybe even too dumb to play at the collegiate level. As I've written elsewhere, I slowly moved down the bench that final season until I was at the end, where I became a sort of hybrid fan + player. So I stopped going to practice by the end of the season, and no one--I mean no one--asked me why. (Look up self-evident in the dictionary.)
I played on the varsity tennis team in college--got four varsity letters--but I knew I was really not much good (I got weekly confirmation at our matches--and in practices, where my teammates generally whupped me). One college summer I worked at a tennis camp in the Adirondacks, where I saw a nine-year-old kid who could beat me (I didn't give him the chance to do so), and I was the worst player among the counselors.
As I, uh, aged even more, my pale athletic abilities faded commensurately. I used to run 4-6 miles a day. Not no more (knees, ankles).
Then I did a combination of exercises at the health club: StairMaster (20 min), exercise bike (20 min), jogging around the track (20 min). Not no more.
Then I did the exercise bike only--thirty, sometimes sixty minutes. Not no more.
Now I do the exercise bike for twenty minutes (with a rest break after ten) and walk ten fairly brisk minutes around the indoor track, carrying 12-lb weights in each hand for a few of them (doing curls for a few laps).
Soon I'll have to write "not no more" about this activity, too.
Such is entropy.
My mom, 96, who, well into her 70s, used to swim every morning and hike trails on the Oregon coast with her friends, now sits in a chair all day and requires help for everything. And I mean everything.
As I indicated at the outset, I'm beginning to realize (and accept) that there are things I am never going to do, places I will never go, as well.
And on that Happy Note, I'll pause. And continue on Thurs.