Do I have to hurt to pay attention?

It was the late 50’s. There was this sidewalk. It jutted diagonally from Rowland’s north-west exit and we’d play “running bases” on it. Sliding to beat tags, we’d tear pants, skin knees, bounce up, and smile. From the Swift Pitching field fronting Bayard to an Over The Line diamond in back, games flowed unimpeded by the hazards of streets, curbs, trees or traffic. We were young and vibrant and our bodies were invincible.

(Those days are gone).

Ferguson Field, Euclid and Green… a Sunday morning in the early ‘80s:

Some jackass had come in high and flattened me. I made the play, but was hurt. From the bench I watched us finish with nine. At game’s end Malkin virtually carried me through the portal of Huron Road Hospital. “If it’s broken ribs, “he told me in ER, “there is nothing worse.”

Yesterday, worn by six days of sciatic torture, I leaned on a coffee bar at Caribou, debated whether to leave or stay, stand or sit, go home or to the office, “sh!#* or go blind.” There: half in—half out, I realized: Malkin, lied.

Dr. Bob called it my para forma muscle. So be it. All know is that more than the ribs, more than even “The Drive” game—this is the worst pain I’ve ever endured!

My mom said this would happen…so to speak. She’d always tell me “Take care of your body.” (I never listened—even as a kid). Not once did it occur to me—not once—that she could be right. Even in high school, immobilized by torn cartilage—“water on the knee,” they called it…I never stopped sliding, never paused. As a catcher not known to hit for power, I loved collisions. What better chance, I sensed, to show my worth, than a cloud of dust and a ball well-held? Throw to the plate, slide, bang-bang, he’s out! What better validation?

Now, though, it’s 2011. Pain mandates I finally learn the difference between Tylenol and Advil. Moreover, lying on a couch, just lying…examining the physical ME…I’m stunned…blown away at my discovery: I got old. I really did. I got old. Sixty-f’ing one.

Whodda thunk it?

Do others of my generation, (I wonder)…do my friends or their wives—-when they look in the mirror…have they aged too?

Do they have these “things” like I do?

I wonder…eyeing my left forehead in the mirror. Do others have scars of unknown genesis?

Do they see a crooked finger, the residue of blood poisoning? It was August. ’81 when, confined at Hillcrest, arm in I.V., announcement came that baseball’s strike had ended… the All Star game was on for that Sunday night. Season ticket trumping common sense, signing myself out against both medical and marital advice, I made it to the lakefront. Two rows from Bob Hope (I might add). He, of course, is long gone and at peace. Me? I, still own one ugly, misshaped finger.

Oh well…

We’ve had a pretty good run…my body and me. Did all right, (I suppose), for a typical Jewish kid with B (at times B+?) athletic prowess. Indeed, looking down at this Olympic frame, measuring it against the canvas of the past, it could be worse.

I have my hair—or more than most. And I can see, and hear. Don’t run anymore, but never did. Walking I’ll do, (weather permitting), and I still dance better than Elaine Benis. I’m OK.

I am hurting, though.

Michael insists the pain will subside if I only lose weight. My father, were he alive, would be incredulous at the comment. “What medical school did you attend?” he’d ask his grandson. (It should be noted however, that my dad was never accused of underweight).

Last night I saw Art at the party. HE’S been to medical school; he’ll know.

“It’s called ‘decrepidation’,” said my vet, creating a word. “We’re breaking down.” As usual, his was a message of candor and doom:

“Cars fall apart. So do people. We can replace our parts too.”

Thanks, Kraut.

The ultimate question, I suppose is if IF and WHEN the pain subsides, will I do things differently. I wonder.

My son would stress diet. That’s never wrong. Stuart would say “Walk.” Also good. My dad, perhaps most realistic, would smile.

“You’re 61 Little Boy,” he’d think. “Does it really matter?”

Makes me wonder if he went to med school too.


  1. Stuart says:

    Bob sees a teenager when he looks at the mirror. No aches or pains for him. His advice to you would be: Plain Cheeseburgers; crispy fries and most importantly…No Garnish!

  2. bob says:

    I still see the teenager in us all, with or without garnish. I haven’t noticed any of the South Euclid people aging. It must have been the water in the Bexley Pool.

  3. alan says:

    stuart’s post is great. that said, i am recovering from one journey of 48 hours and then 36 back. like snyder, but with a very different context, i feel and think young, that said back and legs hurt.

  4. Mark Ermine says:

    I lost all my hair

  5. aunt helen says:

    Please stop all the complaining.

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