Paul Andersen: Fair Game
August 9, 2009
My 16-year-old son and I had an impromptu wrestling match in the kitchen last week. It began with a snide remark I made about his urban turban – the T-shirt he wraps around his head. He shoved me up against the refrigerator, so I shoved him back against the range. It escalated from there.
We were never angry, or even hostile. We just wanted to test each other’s strength, which is not prudent for a 58-year-old with three hernia repairs. Still, it’s hard to resist when the young lad to whom you have given the blessings of life dares to make bodily challenges.
“You want some ‘o dis?!” he demands, strutting like a gangster. “Why would I want some ‘o dat?” I sneer. “Cuz I’m gonna kick your butt!” he says. “Yo mamma!” I reply, and the battle is on.
Tait’s momma tries to break up our tussle, but to no avail. That would mean interrupting a tradition dating to when Tait was a toddler, when we wrestled in bed and I tossed him around like a burlap sack until we couldn’t stop laughing.
Now, it’s a more even combat. I still outweigh the young lad, but at 115 pounds, Tait is rail thin and all muscle. He’s taller than me by two inches, and his hands and arms are longer and more pliant. I’m sorely outmatched, but refuse to accept it … yet.
As the struggle ensues, Tait gets me in a crushing grip around the waist and squeezes until I can hear my ribs creaking. With a desperate twist I break his hold and grapple for his wrists. He lunges low and shoves me against the wall, causing pictures to shake in their frames. The battle ends only when I surrender, which I do before we punch a hole in the drywall.
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Afterward, we’re both breathing hard, rubbing sore muscles, acknowledging particular holds and moves. I ignore my aching shoulder and knotted back. That would be to admit mortality, and I’m still a god in my own home… well, a lesser god.
Last week, Tait and I backpacked through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness where the youngster had the temerity to attempt walking me to death. Despite his spindly legs, he left me on every pass. The longer he had to wait on top, the better he liked it.
Trail Rider Pass was my worst humiliation. The trail goes up from Fravert Basin like a staircase, its relentless switchbacks scaling the backside of Snowmass Peak. Tait set out steadily and I followed, determined to keep him in sight.
My efforts were in vain. Number One Son gained inches on me with each step. Soon he disappeared in the Krummholz trees far ahead. When I crested a false summit and the trail stretched out far ahead, he was nowhere to be seen.
Oh, yes he was. I couldn’t believe it, but there he was, across the basin, gaining the pass on the final switchback. He was moving at what seemed an inhuman pace against my slow, plodding, persistence. Tait’s winged feet were leagues ahead of my leaden footfalls, and I finally came to terms with the inevitable role reversal of father and son. Tait is Icarus. I am Sisyphus.
I reasoned that it was time to derive some benefits from this newfound strength of his, so at our camp the next morning I loaded Tait down with some of my gear, assuming that would slow him for the final ascent up the backside of Buckskin Pass.
But something was dreadfully wrong. As my tongue dragged on the dusty trail, Tait fairly waltzed to the top, where he raised his fists to the heavens and proclaimed in unspoken verve that he had surpassed his aged father and established his supremacy.
It would be prudent for me to surrender myself to his superior strength, but that would be far too mature a response. First, I will resort to every trick I know: I will load his pack even heavier the next time we go backpacking. And when he gets uppity, there are a few dirty wrestling moves I know that should leave him groaning on the kitchen floor. After all, even a lesser god should have some respect in his own home.