As long as we remain relatively healthy, we all have memories. Luckily for me, most of mine have been pleasant. But some haven’t been so pleasant, and in a case or two, some have been downright worth forgetting.
I get it from my late maternal grandmother. She enjoyed an outstanding memory well into her mid-80s. Unfortunately, beyond that, Alzheimer’s began invading her brain, and she eventually died in her 90s as a result.
But prior to that, the lady could remember stuff that happened 40 and 50 years earlier in her life. Now whether the stuff actually happened or not was irrelevant. The fact is that she remembered it WELL.
And depending on the trigger, I, too, am able to remember stuff really well. Now don’t get the wrong impression; I’ve been known to embellish a past detail or two, but only when it made the telling more, shall we say, um… interesting.
But sometimes things happen in our later lives that cause instant flashbacks to things that happened DECADES earlier.
Like it or not, we old coots owe a huge debt to our younger colleagues to recall these things and tell the TRUTH about them, even though we know that no matter what we wiser folks say or do, stupidity is forever destined to perpetuate itself.
What follows is a true story. Only the locals here in New Castle County, Delaware will recognize the geography, but it doesn’t matter; the essence of the message is the same no matter where we live.
The other day, I was driving down Philadelphia Pike. Just south of the Shipley Road/Philadelphia Pike intersection, I noticed three teens with skateboards in hand crowded around a fourth one who was on the ground.
They had been skateboarding down the Pike when one of his front wheels hit a pebble, which explained the nasty gash in his right knee and the fact that the Gorilla® Glass on his cell phone—you know, the stuff that’s not supposed to break—had done just THAT.
After stopping to see that they were OK otherwise, I went on my way. But I could not help remembering a glorious day many years ago when I became a skateboarding legend of sorts.
It was late summer of 1988 and I had decided, based on a crazy-ass 48 year old’s whim, to show my neighbor’s 12-year-old son how to skateboard SAFELY.
The boy—a grown man with kids of his own today—still talks about it. And I’ll have you know that the REAL lesson I gave him that day—and the other four boys with him—forever more elevated me to the status of expert extraordinaire in the minds of ALL FIVE of them.
And I can’t tell you how proud I feel—to this day—to have been such an inspiration to them.
I remember the details as though they happened YESTERDAY. My heart rate and blood pressure still increase whenever I think about it; which, thankfully, is rare nowadays.
Projecting the wisdom and expertise of an established professional—as a trained scientist I reasoned that it would be a cakewalk—I planted my left foot in the middle of the kid’s skateboard and shoved off with my right foot. Exhilaration consumed me!
Approximately 3-nanoseconds later, as that skateboard took off without me, I landed flat on my back on extremely HARD macadam.
I could hardly breathe, and even then it was in shallow spurts. And it felt like my kidney area was on fire. But even as I vacillated in and out of a dazed state, I definitely heard two of the boys commenting on how AWESOME it looked as that skateboard went airborne for close to 7-feet.
Of course, I didn’t see that part of it because (1), I was extremely busy trying to breathe; (2), I had unrelenting burning pains pulsating through my kidneys, having convinced me that I had ruptured one—if not BOTH—of them; and (3), I was WAAAY too busy wondering if my heart was going to start beating again.
And I won’t EVEN go into the empathy I had SUDDENLY gained relative to the persistent humiliation those suffering from INCONTINENCE have to endure.
But those boys talked about that airborne skateboard for months after the fact. Had I been in the Olympics, the comedic effect, alone, would have garnered me a 6.0 score (highest possible).
Now, my lesson aimed at that 12-year-old said more about middle-age stupidity than it did about skateboard safety; nor did it stop ANY of those boys from skateboarding. And I’m equally sure that it hasn’t stopped any of THEIR children from skateboarding, either.
But that lesson gave those boys—and probably their own children as well—something to talk and LAUGH about for years, and I’m so proud that I was able to contribute.
And what was the REAL lesson I taught that 12-year-old that day? In retrospect, it was how NOT to fall off a skateboard!
To this day—and I’m now in my 70s—I get all bubbly-eyed and my kidneys begin to burn whenever I think about that day. And the lesson I learned that day was simple: middle age idiots should stay the hell off skateboards… PERIOD!