Today was the day for my yearly checkup. I was mildly in fear of going, but not really. It's really more like an inconvenience. When you get to be my age, which is still fairly young by most standards, things start breaking down on your body. I won't terrify you with an exhaustive list here, but let's just say that I feel like I'm always having to learn a new way to live. Now, I don't mean 'live' as in 'live and die'. I'm referring to more of a 'you gotta LIVE life to the fullest!' live. Things like the missing cartilage in my right knee. Fun stuff like ultimate frisbee used to be a no-brainer for me as for whether or not I was going to participate. Now I must consider whether or not I'm willing to put up with the aching in my knee for four days after, and whether or not it's worth taking 800mg of ibuprofen four times a day during that time. You see, not only does the ibuprofen wreak havoc on your stomach lining after prolonged use, but it is also linked to elevated blood pressure and kidney disease. Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's a lot to consider when all you're wanting to do is go out and throw the frisbee with some friends.
It might seem like complaining, and I'm sure I can't deny it, but the whole knee thing was just a freak accident that didn't have to happen. I was already 30 something when it happened so it wasn't like I was some world class athlete whose super developed musculature and God-given speed brought about the inevitable. I was just a wild mannered (it sounds like mild mannered, which is a comfortable phrase that should help the reader feel more akin to my plight, but the truth is I was anything but mild in those days) athletic engineering type person, who really loved to compete in all different kind of sports.
This particular day was pick-up basketball in our church's new gym, with carpet on the floor and the basketball lines, key and all, right in the carpet. I continually ended up on a team opposite some other tallish kind of guy, and since I was the second tallish (I did it again, it sounds like tallest but it's not) guy out there that day, so I was always guarding this guy and having him guard me. Problem is this guy was extremely serious about his basketball, and I must admit I was just as serious about not ever losing, ever. Well this guy was making me work way too hard all day long, and I really felt I had to pace myself in order to continue to play, because we usually would play till we dropped. However, we were losing, and, as I said before, I didn't like losing, ever, so I decided that I would just take matters into my own hands, and put on a 10 minute or so burst of energy, which I figured would be just enough to get my team the win.
And about that word 'team'. Why do I care so much about these guys. 20 minutes ago half of them were trying hard to make me the loser. I mean, gee-whiz, who is even going to remember anything about this day in 5 years? Probably not even five days! That's the problem with boys. It's always about being the winner. Being the man! No matter what the cost. Deep down we know that guys are always going to remember that so-and-so was always the guy who was on the winning team in basketball, and so-and-so always hit monster home runs in softball, and so-and-so could make red kool-aid come out his nose at YMCA summer camp. That's important stuff.
But nobody remembers. Not that stuff. If they do remember anything it's not because you were such a great this or that, but that they liked you, and you were nice, and hopefully not that you were mean. Maybe they'll remember that when you played the guitar you really seemed to love doing it, or that you never gossiped about anyone, ever. Maybe they'll remember that you were always the shy one, but you kept showing up to youth group every week even though you hardly ever said a word. Maybe they'll remember that time you went on a hiking trip up in Colorado, even though you had a club foot, and it hurt like hell after a few miles, but you kept on going and hardly complained at all. Maybe it was your sense of humor, your generous spirit, your beautiful smile which always seemed to be turned on. You get the point.
Back to the game...because of my limited actual talent for basketball, my solution was to make up for it in hustle. Even though I shot 25%, I tried to make it like 50% by getting as many rebounds as I could and shooting again. This day, however, it was the wrong move. 6'-3", 180 lbs. moving swiftly in one direction, trying to stop on a dime as I reach the ball that was trying to find safe haven out of bounds. Body keeps going, all except that part of the body that was below the right knee. Somehow the grip of the carpet on that tennis shoe was more than strong enough to overcome the, up-until-now, stranglehold my anterior cruciate ligament had on the upper and lower bones of my right leg. Two surgeries, 15 or so years of relative inactivity and lots of excellent Mexican food have added 60 pounds to my once svelte frame. Again I'm not complaining. But really I am. I wish I hadn't been so stinking competitive back then, but how was I to know.
If it hadn't been the gym carpet, or my silly competitive streak, it probably would have been something else before long. The fact is, our bodies don't stay teenagers for ever.
But I still wonder all the time how I could be so young and have a kid in college.