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August 04, 2003

Walking Like My Father

I have become an old man, complete with an old man's shuffling walk, thanks to simultaneously pulling muscles in both calves last night at the neighborhood pool.

I was playing "Foxes and Hounds" with the preteen set, a game I knew as "Black Magic" in my youth. It takes place in the narrow deep end of the pool; the point being to get from one side to another without being tagged. One person starts out as the Hound, chasing the foxes across the pool while they desperately swim for safety. After each fox is tagged, he or she becomes a hound until only one fox, or none, is left.

Foxes also become hounds if they are still on the side of the pool when a hound touches it. This status is determined by the lifeguard, who normally takes a great interest in the game, often to the detriment of the other swimmers in the pool. It's a good way to tag multiple players, but depends completely on the element of surprise, and speed.

So naturally I tried it during my turn as Hound, going from a standing stop at the side of the pool to full speed in an attempt to reach the other side as quickly as possible. Halfway across, about ten feet or one second after I pushed off, both calves blew, cramping with as intense a pain as I have ever felt, and I've thrown my back out, twice. My legs basically stopped working; I got the rest of the way across on arms alone, tagged the side and then sank down beneath the surface, trying to stretch out my legs to ease the cramps in each.

"So this is why people who get cramps drown," I thought, floating still and quiet about 5 feet down. "They are remarkably painful."

Not that I was worried about drowning. The only way water will kill me, ever, is if I am unconscious upon entering it, or if I happened to take a dip in the middle of the North Atlantic on fine winter's day, though arguably it would be the cold doing me in, not my buddy H20.

The whole episode probably took 10 seconds, tops. I surfaced to find two eleven-year-olds arguing vociferously with the lifeguard over the finer points of the side tag rule, which gave me another few seconds to try and work out the kinks before their objections were overruled and they reluctantly joined the Hound side.

I essentially swam crippled for the rest of the game and the ones that followed, but kept my end up fairly well, which isn't too hard when one is playing with mostly pre-teens. Ngnat's idol Charlotte, who is in first grade now, once even accused me of possessing speed.

I also won more than my share, coming up as last untagged Fox twice, which is just as excellent a feeling as it was when I last played as a youth---probably 1983. The pain in my legs was still there, but as long as I kept moving it was manageable.

So I kept moving, as vulpine, canine or cetacean, swimming Ngnat around on my back from one underwater light to another, helping her rescue millipedes from a watery grave.

Until we drove home. It's not a long drive, less than five minutes I would guess, but it was plenty long enough for my calves to stiffen up. The first four or five steps out of the car were nearly impossible. The pain was so intense and the situation so ludicrous that I started to giggle.

I do not giggle. I may chuckle, or guffaw, but I do not giggle. The last time the Sainted Wife heard me giggle was after I threw out my back at two o'clock in the morning and was laying naked on the bathroom floor, wondering how in God's name I was going to get back in bed when I couldn't move. The giggle makes her break out in a cold sweat. She fully expects the first sign of me suffering a massive heart attack to be "Heeheeheeheehee."

Once the legs got warmed up I was fine, staggering stiff-legged up the stairs and into the house, but moving, at least. I told S.W. this, which she knew was the same thing my father told my mother in the months before his hip was replaced, so it placated her not at all. I've been doing the same ever since, lurching from side to side and handhold to handhold like a drunk on the high seas, and swearing that everything is perfectly okay after the first couple of steps.

You should see me bring the baby down the stairs.

Posted by Bigwig at August 4, 2003 12:08 AM | TrackBack
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I would leave my condolences, but I'm still giggling.

Posted by: bogie at August 4, 2003 05:36 AM

I can relate to your bathroom incident. In the middle of the night I developed such a spasm in my back that I rolled out of the bathroom, down the 3 steps to my bedroom (and I don't recall how I got onto the bed). Reaching back over my head, I retrieved the telephone, called information to get my physician's phone number (this was in the days when it was simple to get information). Upon calling the physician's number, I got a recording that gave me her answering service's number, which I called. While awaiting her call-back, I turned my prediciment over in my mind. All my doors were locked so how would my "rescuers" get to me without breaking in? Would they break in for me? How relieved I was when she called back with the soothing words that if I just lay there for a couple of hours (I had an early morning flight to catch, so a couple of hours was all I HAD), everything would be all right. I had not been exposed to such spasms before and it scared the heck out of me; but, I giggle about it, now.

Posted by: Cop Car at August 4, 2003 07:40 AM

We used to play a similar game when I was a kid, called "Sharks and Minnows". I played water polo growing up, which is a rough game, and a lot of the folks I was on swim team with played. So sharks and minnows was full contact and kind of nasty. The sharks had to drag the minnows to the surface in a 14 foot deep-end. Somehow, a broken nose just didn't hurt as much under water.

I can sympathize with you regarding your feeling of growing old and banged up. As a slightly younger friend noted recently, "I see you have a handprint on the wall over your toilet too..." I grunted at him, which at my age is about the only physical act I do better now than at age 21.

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at August 4, 2003 02:02 PM

I can commiserate with your back story, although I was afraid to giggle when I did it. I figured any movement might be the end of me. I hope the spasms have abated and that you are reasonably back to "normal."

Posted by: Buffy at August 4, 2003 02:14 PM
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