I complain about my father.
In fact, I complain about my father a lot, but I give him credit for the nuggets of wisdom he’s given me. Before my first marriage, he warned me, “Son, if you’re ever tempted to cheat, make sure it’s with someone worth losing your marriage over.”
Good advice. Too bad my ex-wife didn’t follow it, maybe we’d still be married. In the end, it worked out better for me. I met my second wife. She’s beautiful AND she loves to cook. That’s a nice combination.
Well, she and her boyfriend lost their jobs when they got caught stealing refrigerators from where they worked. How you steal something that big is beyond me. Maybe that’s why I’m still employed. Still, it didn’t surprise me. Not when the morning after our wedding night I discovered my wallet missing.
“You can’t help the stupid,” my father is fond of telling me, and – you know what? – he’s right. When my granddaughter was born, my father also told me, “You better get in shape, son. You don’t want to have a heart attack chasing after her as she’s running into the street.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I thought to myself.
“Sure, pop,” is what I said out loud.
You see, I thought I was in good shape. I mean, I read “Men’s Health” and everything. If I didn’t exactly follow their advice, I at least looked at their pictures of sexy women. That got my blood circulating. I could even walk from the den to the pantry for a snack without passing out, but a heart attack?
I had my heart attack at 55, and I’m not talking about what Sammy Hagar can’t drive. I didn’t have it doing anything quite so heroic as saving my granddaughter’s life. I had it, um, walking to the pantry for a snack.
“What’s the matter?” my beautiful wife asked me.
“I don’t think I want this snickerdoodle after all,” I told her.
“Good idea,” she agreed.
“Can you take me to the hospital instead?”
One heart stent later, I was back at home thinking about what my father said.
I was always in reasonably good shape. I remember in high school, we would have won the big game if only Coach would have put me in. “We weren’t laughing at you, son” Coach told me after the game, “we were laughing with you.”
When my youngest daughter was four, she told me “Daddy, you need to exercise.” I happened to be laying on the floor at the time, watching television. She sat on my ankles. “Pick-a me up,” she ordered.
And I did.
I started doing leg-lifts with her happily bouncing up and down. Flipping over, she climbed on my back and I started doing push-ups. It was fun. She laughed, called me her pony, and it was the most exercise I had done in a while. I didn’t follow through, so by the time my granddaughter showed up, I was determined to get back in shape. Have you noticed how people who want to get back in shape are under the impression they were ever in shape to begin with?
As it turned out, getting back into shape wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was, well, EVERYTHING my granddaughter did. When she ran, I ran. When she jumped, I jumped. When she ate, I ate. And in the same portions.
“Grandpa, dance with me,” she says, and I do. Of course, her idea of dancing is me picking her up and swinging her around. Which does wonders for upper body strength.
“Grandpa, play with me,” she says, and I find myself searching high and low for her. Mostly low. Bending over to look under beds, behind doors, around furniture in a playful game of hide-and-seek. Of course, I know where she is, but she gets a kick out of my pretending I don’t.
Say she’s hiding behind a couch, she’ll call out, “I’m in the kitchen!” and she’ll laugh at having “fooled” me. “I’m behind the door!” she’ll call out again, laughing her cunning superhero laugh, as I’m misled once again. “I’m under the desk!”
She loves playing outdoors. As luck would have it, we live across the street from a park, but I don’t take her there to play, I take her there to chase. I chase after her on foot. I chase after her as she’s peddling away on her bike. I chase after her when she’s riding the motorized princess car we bought her.
Good for my legs.
And my stamina, too.
In our backyard, I broke a sweat building a swing set for her. It has a slide on one end and a see-saw on the other. She loves that see-saw. She sits on one end and I grab the other and push down. Over and over and over again. She’s tireless.
Not so much.
Switching tactics, I’ll stand and put one fat foot on the seat and continue. Up, down. Up, down. Up, down.
“Are you tired yet?” I huff.
“No,” she says.
“How about now?” I puff.
So I have to push through “the wall.”
Only I never get close to “the wall.”
Finally, she’ll decide she wants to swing.
“Higher, Grandpa!” she used to tell me. “Higher!”
It was a joy to swing her high into the air, her long curly hair flying all over the place. Now, she’s at an age where she no longer needs me to swing her. She can swing herself. And she does. Higher and faster than I ever did. That’s a different kind of pain in my heart.
There’s no stent for that.