It all started one balmy day as I sat on the park bench in our driveway and watched my son demonstrate the fine art of balancing on his skateboard. I watched him | with envy. I had never had a skateboard when I was growing up. In my day we kept our feet firmly planted on the ground or, at worst, in a pair of shiny steel roller skates. I do not remember skateboards passing into my stream of consciousness until I was at an age when such things were no longer supposed to interest me. I guess that by the time I realized there were skateboards I had already passed that mystical point in time when the "experts" (mothers, co-workers, neighbors) say you can no longer perform youthful activities without looking foolish.
Having a son, though, released me from any such concern. Now, after more than four decades of life, I had an excuse to revisit my youth. I was free to accept any offer my son extended, knowing that I was acting in the role of "goodfather." I would be involving myself in what interested him. It would be quality time.
So when my son called out, "Yo! Da! You want to give it a try?", I answered, "I'm not sure. I wouldn't want to break anything." Time to cover all my bases in case the neighbors were listening.
"No problem. Come on, it's fun."
That was my cue. If it was going to be fun I could go forward in good conscience. I sauntered over to where he was waiting with the instrument of my destruction held out to me.
"You just get on it and go," he said.
"You make it sound so easy," I replied.
"It is easy. Only nerds have trouble."
I suppose I should have stopped to clarify what a 6-yearold's concept of a nerd was. Instead, I began the intricate process of balancing myself on the narrow board that wobbled precariously above four skinny wheels.
Upright at last: After several moments spent gathering my courage, and running through a mental checklist to assure myself that the insurance was up to date and my premiums paid, I was at last standing upright. I spread my arms out in a gesture of confidence and victory.
"OK, Da. Now you have to make it move, too."
I gave him a thinly disguised look of contempt and began rocking back and forth in an effort to generate some forward movement. I crept ahead about an inch.
"Put your foot on the ground and push," he intoned. Six years old and already he was the voice of authority.
Naturally, I reverted to my adult instincts. I obeyed.
What happened next will no doubt appear in the annals of my family's lore for generations to come. Keeping one foot firmly on the board, I dropped the other toward the concrete "wave" I was about to challenge. As my foot made contact, I pushed away with a force equal to that I applied to my gas pedal whenever I wished to rocket my way onto a freeway or to accelerate around road obstacles, such as other cars. I pushed away, my speed increasing rapidly on the downhill slope of the driveway. I tried to pull my foot back on the board and assume that position of dominance I had seen demonstrated on the surf at Galveston. I envisioned myself gracefully riding the "big wave."
A neighbor who watched me challenge the elements of suburbia compared my ride to the spectacle of a gooney bird trying to land. "Man, your arms and leas were going everywhere, and when you hit it was like nothing I've seen a man do before. Except maybe that intro they used to do on 'Wide World of Sports.' You know the one of that skier who tumbles down the side of a mountain. Too bad they weren't here to film you. Yours was better."
I guess I should be thankful that I won't be a future installment on "America's Funniest Home Videos."
Everything happened too fast for my life to flash before me. But what I do recall is a quick glimpse of my son's face, his eyes and mouth opened wide in awe. I flailed at the air as I shot off the board. For a moment I felt suspended in time and motion, my arms and legs working frantically to establish some balance. Then I hit the ground, the full weight of my fall landing squarely on the side of one foot. The pain was instant and intense.
"Wow, Da! That was really radical! Do it again."
I hopscotched my way to the park bench. "Get me a beer and some ice quick," I barked.
"Wait till I tell Mom what you did!"
I grimaced. Expert opinion was about to add to my injury.
It took about 45 minutes to realize that the swelling and pounding were nature's way of telling me to cash in on my group insurance. The drive to the emergency room seemed endless as my son recounted every detail of my ride.
"The best part was when he hit and hopped . . . it was awesome . . . "
The wait in the emergency room was equally agonizing as my son made the rounds. "My dad fell off a skateboard. It was really neat."
Finally, my name was called. As I hobbled toward the door I sensed my ordeal drawing to a close. I was almost there when the doctor spoke loud enough for all to hear. "Riding a skateboard, and at your age. Didn't your mother ever tell . . . "
As his voice trailed off amid the snickers, I could only mumble my response.
"It was quality time."