Friday, September 13, 2013

Strong Kids' Club Failure

When I was a little kid, maybe 7, my sister Peggy was 9; my sister Patty was 11; and my brother Mike was 14. And Mike--who went on to play college baseball for St. Johns, a near-powerhouse in those days, then Vietnam, then became a cop, then a lawyer and finally, on retirement, a part-time judge and the all-time king of "Letters to the Editor" in New York City newspapers, from the New York Times to the Daily News to the Post and every other one--well Mike came up with this idea for The Strong Kids' Club. It was only open to himself, Pat, Peg and me. It just required some painfully Catholic pain-acceptance. There are three key things that I remember--though there were probably others--to becoming a member in good standing of the Club. THe first was getting into the bathtub before dawn. The bathtub was filled with six inches of cold New York winter water and as many ice cubes as we could make. You had to lie in it and not flinch for 30 seconds. If you flinched the timing started again. If the water warmed, more cold water and ice was put in.
   The second was doing cartwheels in your underwear in the snow with no shoes completely around the house. It was a small house but was still probably 54 feet deep and 15 feet wide on the outside. If you failed you had to start over.
   The third was writing your name in blood. Your full name. Which, as Catholics who got confirmed, meant four names. And even though I was too young to have been confirmed, I had to use the name I was planning to take as my Confirmation name. So I had to have my index finger pricked and then write "Peter Thomas John Gorman" with John as the presumptive Confirmation name because it was short (although it did become my confirmation name in the end). But if your blood dried up you had to start over. Which meant my brother sometimes stuck me several times a day before I either wrote all four names or he let me quit.
   And you had to do these tasks every day for that year of the Strong Kids' Club.
   Well, about a week ago, a woman I lived with for a long time--I have referred to her as "my first wife" on this blog I think--evidently saw pictures of my leg at its worst and wrote me an email for probably the first time in 26 years (she was happily married so that was good) and noted that "by now you have to be the undisputed king of the Strong Kids' Club".
    That she remembered that club after 25-30 years blew my mind. That she thought of it as an ongoing competition 25-30 years later and commented on it blew my mind again. What an amazing person to remember that! How fantastic she was/is!
    And when she wrote that my chest swelled up: Yes, I've had malaria, dengue, flesh-eating spider bites, an intestine that exploded and dropped three liters of human waste and acid in my stomach and I've had a small heart attack and was bitten by a baby bushmaster snake and now I have the single most deep and disgusting flesh-eating bacterial wound that most people have ever seen. Yes, I thought, I am the KING of the Strong Kids' Club!
    But then here is the reality: I'm not the king of anything. My left leg, the good one, had a sciatic nerve pinched about three weeks ago and it has left me in pain night and day. I've started with a chiropractor and sleep on the carpeted hardwood floor and have been in agony. Every task I do, just picking up medicines, I tend to take 20 minutes considering before I can screw up the courage to do them, knowing I'm going to be in extreme pain when I do.
    Yesterday, Chepa was over with her new babies and my granddaughter and three neighbor boys and we let them play in the mud created by the confluence of the state putting a new road across my front yard and an extremely heavy rainstorm. It was fantastic! But today, thinking I had to get the hose and clean the flat stones I've put as paths in the front yard and then clean the porch, covered in mud, and then clean my office, which is where people enter this house, and then clean the kitchen and unstop the kitchen sink which got clogged with mud, and then the tub, which got clogged with mud....well, it was all of an hour's work but it took me a full hour to finally get up and do it.
   I don't know if it's all pain or muscular atrophy or simple laziness. But I know it's not the Peter Gorman I know. And I know that if that woman who wrote me could actually see me moving so slowly, so fraidy-cat, she's never have said I was the undisputed king of the Stong Kids' Club. She'd probably just have said I'm a bum.
    So I'm gonna have to change things, because I don't want to be a bum and I don't want to be afraid to move and I don't want to put off chores that I would normally do in an instant, without giving them a second thought.
    Cause just being hurt doesn't make you the undisputed king of anything.

1 comment:

Morgan said...

A live little Sunday selection for ya Peter from another Peter from the Morgan to the Gorman! High Steppa!

Peter Tosh - I'm The Toughest

Peter Tosh - Coming in Hot