A parental breakdown

Note: An edited version of this column appears in the 10/7 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/8 issue of the Peoria Times

My parents are falling apart. Physically.

This is mainly a result of them both being super active. My dad is an avid runner, and my mom -- though she became involved relatively recently -- has possibly passed even my dad in her commitment to running.

Unfortunately, their bodies are having difficulty keeping up. A few weeks ago, my dad’s knee went out while playing softball. For whatever reason, most of my fathers’ injuries involve something “going out.” Nothing is ever “tweaked,” or “pulled.” It just dramatically goes out, collapsing, I imagine, onto itself. I’m not certain what the exact medical terminology is for something “going out,” but my dad’s back has gone out so often, it’s a wonder that it’s not, at this point, being held together with duct tape and string. (Which is, by the way, how he would fix his back if it ever fell off, in lieu of going to the doctor.)

And that’s not to make light of his recent knee injury, which is pretty serious. In describing in graphic detail how it happened, he used the phrase, “ligaments re-attached themselves,” which I am also not sure is medically accurate, but do not care to find out. His frustration is not so much with the injury itself, but how it affects his status for the upcoming road race they are entered in.

This has pretty much been the routine with my parents of late. They participate in so many races -- my mom even does the Phoenix ½ marathon with me each year -- and they choose to prepare themselves for these races by running in additional races. In doing this, they inevitably injure themselves, and thus hope that they can be ready for the race that they were preparing to be ready for in the first place, until they got hurt.

My mom, though she battled through persistent foot injuries last year, is often forced to deal with less common ailments. She had, most recently, decided to prepare for their upcoming 10K by participating in the Philadelphia ½ marathon. Granted, this is like preparing for lunch by eating dinner, but no matter. She called me the following day to let me know how she did, which was, “not great,” but mostly because she hurt her shoulder as a result of wearing “the wrong bra.”

As a man, there is nothing quite like listening to your mother, over the phone, explain how she struggled in a recent road race because she wore an ill-fitting bra. Of course, any conversation with my mom includes the requisite update on my dad’s recent injury as well as an exciting recap of which random people, none of whom I can recall from my childhood, died. And so the conversation went like this:

Mom: So yeah, the bra was way too tight, and it really started hurting my shoulder. By mile 11, I was really struggling. I don’t know why I wore that bra. I had a different bra set out to wear in the hotel room, and I should have worn that one. I really should have.

Me: Uh huh.

Mom: Anyway, daddy’s doing okay. The chiropractor said he can start putting pressure on his knee next week, and if the swelling goes down, he can start going for short walks.

Me: Okay. That’s good.

Mom: Of course, you know daddy -- he tried to run a quick mile today and hurt it again pretty bad. And his back went out cleaning the bathroom.

Me: Wow.

Mom: Geez, I know. Oh, and that’s what I forgot to tell you. Do you remember Mr. Langerhans? Gil Langerhans?

Me: Uhhh, no.

Mom: He was daddy’s friend from work? But he’s a parishioner at church, too? I think he was at the party at the McAndrew’s house back in 1983? Remember?

Me: No, I don’t remember.

Mom: Anyway, he died.

(Ed. note: My mom, when speaking to me, still refers to herself and my dad, respectively, as "Mommy" and "Daddy." Just so you know. Because I'm 32.)

I feel kind of bad sometimes, being here in Arizona while my parents are back east, dealing with various injuries and the after-effects of wearing improper undergarments. Not that I’d be able to really help anyway, especially with regards to the latter, but still. At least my sisters are there, who are thrilled to get more frequent injury updates than I do, and who also get to feed the cats when my parents are limping through a race far from home.

I can still do my part though, I think, in an attempt to have my parents take it easy a bit. The next time my dad is here, instead of going for runs, maybe we’ll just have a catch. Father and son, tossing the ol’ ball around, hoping nothing goes out. Nice and easy. Maybe even while sitting down.

My mom? She’s already registered for the ½ marathon here in a few months. Maybe I can just convince her to prepare for it a little less intensively, as I certainly wouldn’t want her to miss it. In fact, it’s kind of become our thing to do together. And as any son whose mom is cool and active enough to come out to Arizona to run 13.1 miles with him would say: I hope she brings a different bra.


Anonymous said…
Wow...that's really all I can say at this point. I'm literally speechless. You have spoken the truth all to well! The funniest (and scariest) part is that we are just like them! We love you mom and dad!
Bill said…
When you talked about your dad's descriptions of things "going out," and ligaments re-attaching themselves, I imagined the doctor on 30 Rock saying them.

Seriously though, I hope your parents recover from their nagging injuries. I think it's a sad fact that after the long distance jogging craze of the 70s or 80s, we are now starting to see the long-term effects. My mother was also an avid distance runner, and now has constant heel problems.

So as a distance runner yourself, beware my friend, beware! (Now picturing a bunch of hobbling people in their 50s and 60s with bad knees and feet, motioning at you and saying "Room for one more...")
kathleen said…
only you can make me LAUGH OUT LOUD while no one else is home!!! Great story!