By LUCILLE SIDER
Author of Light Shines in the Darkness
“Act Your Age”
I’ve always been a daredevil when it comes to sports and at times it has cost me dearly.
It all started at about age 6. My brother Ron, age 14, was pitcher for the school team and he needed to practice at home. I gladly volunteered to be his catcher. We lived in Canada, just across the border from Buffalo, New York. Ron was one of those pitchers who did a full arm circle—and was he fast! Wow! So fast that each pitch nearly knocked me down. Furthermore, the glove I used was way too big for my six-year old hand. But I was brave and never missed one of those fireball pitches.
Come high-school, I joined the girls’ basketball team. I was not only fast but aggressive. I loved working my way to the enemy court and popping those balls right into their basket. However, my aggression took over at times, and I was fouled out. I hated sitting on the side lines—but eventually I was able to manage my aggression.
Fast forward 21 years, which brought me to age 37. My husband and I bought a cottage on Lake Webster in Indiana and a beautiful motor boat. We lived in Chicago and loved the lake life on the weekends. One of my dreams came true when I learned how to water ski. I had watched with envy those lucky people who not only water skied but who also did tricks. I was itching to do the same.
Water skiing came easy to me and I was soon jumping the waves and skiing in doubles with my step-son. All was well for three years, but, on October 1, I had an accident that left me with back problems for thirty-five years.
It happened like this. Our family competed with the Johnson family when it came to water-skiing. One of the competitions was about enduring the cold water in the early spring or late fall. Who could ski earliest in the spring? Who could ski latest in the fall?
On October 1 of 1982, it was 80 degrees outside and my husband said to me, “I’ll take you water-skiing and you’ll win the competition! You will be the latest in the season for waterskiing.”
Of course, I agreed. Didn’t even think of the dangers. But when I jumped in the water I was shocked—utterly shocked. The water was cold, it felt like ice-water. In all my days of water-skiing I had never been in such cold water. But I knew that I’d be okay once I got out of the water because it was 80 degrees. The boat sputtered, however, and did not lift me out of that freezing water. But—instead of dropping the line and sinking back into the water—which I would usually do—I held on to the rope and somehow, I twisted my back. And that is why I have had back pain for 38 years.
At age 50 my marriage ended, which included selling the lake house, our boats and those glorious water-skis. No more water-skiing! That felt bad—very bad for a while. What felt worse was the fact that I felt totally abandoned by my husband. He, a seminary professor had fallen in love with a student and soon married her. It sent me into a deep depression.
But, one way I managed my depression was getting involved in sports. And this time it was roller-blading in Chicago along beautiful Lake Michigan. Roller blading came easy to me since it was just a variation of ice-skating, which had been a family winter sport years ago in Canada. Back then I even played hockey on the creek behind our house. Family hockey, however, was not fast or aggressive, so I was not in danger of hurting myself.
When roller-roller blading along Lake Michigan I met lovely people. In fact, I met one couple who was looking for a caregiver for their two-year old son, Jason. I offered to care for him and he was adorable. Looking back, I realize that he was like a grandchild to me. I read to him. I kicked the ball with him. I even talked him into eating broccoli!
I was so delighted with my life that, for a while, I ignored the fact that I had back pain. But it did not go away. It seemed to get worse so I eventually had back surgery for a perturbing disk. Recovery for this took a full month. My beloved sisters from Canada came to nurture me, each for two weeks, which was quite a sacrifice on their part. That surgery helped somewhat but it would be another 20 years until my back pain was totally alleviated.
When my sisters left, I fell into a deep, deep depression. I was in therapy, I took psychiatric medication and I had two one-month hospitalizations. Yet, the depression hung on. So I travelled to Gould Farm in Connecticut. Working on the farm was very therapeutic but I got myself into big trouble when skating on the lovely pond. It turned out that the fellow skaters were young men who wanted to play hockey. I grew up playing hockey in Canada so I joined in without a thought. I was so proud of myself—racing after the puck and often out-skating the young men.
But then I fell. I fell hard on my head. Very hard! I was sent to the hospital and it was determined that I had a concussion. When I returned to the farm, I made a pledge to myself: that I would hereafter “act my age.” That I would not follow those urges to compete dangerously.
Seven years ago I temporarily forgot my pledge to “act my age.” I was about to move back to Chicago and live near beautiful Lake Michigan with its trails all along Lake Michigan. I could again roller-blade along the lake. I had lost my roller blades in a flood so when I saw a huge sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods, I jumped. I bought everything—skates, helmet, knee pads, wrist pads. I was in heaven and went to the nearby trails to try them out. They were perfect.
But then I got thinking. It was almost 20 years since my roller-blading days. I remembered my vow to myself “to act my age.” That vow would not go away. I called my friend Frank and asked him what he thought about my rollerblading along the lake without a partner. He was quiet and did not really respond. I knew him well enough to realize that he was not in favor of me going out along the lake in roller blades. He himself did not roller blade. The next day I returned all my equipment to Dick’s.
Eventually, I joined LA Fitness and enrolled in “water aerobics.” Water aerobics is easier on the body than regular exercises because the water itself takes some of the strain. After about a month, my back stopped hurting. I couldn’t believe it. My back had been hurting for over thirty years. I had sought all kinds’ treatment for it: physical, acupuncture, medication, surgery but none of it brought relief.
I started chatting with others in water aerobics. Their story was the same as mine: chronic back problem for years, multiple attempts to remedy it. The only thing that has worked is water aerobics.
Water aerobics is rigorous although not dangerous. It is a real work-out. It is fun, especially as you get to know others. Plus, after the class some of us hit the hot tub. That warm water spraying from the spouts feels heavenly. You come home feeling tired but a short nap solves that.
It enables me, finally, to act my age.
Care to Read More?
Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. She also is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day.
Here are some of her earlier columns:
- Her first story was The Perfect House.
- Then, All Manner of Things Shall Be Well.
- Taking on cancer ‘this step, each step’
- Knitting Our Lives Together
- Finding Resilience in the Midst of Winter Blues
- Do you have an animal friend in your life? They can help you make even more friends!
- Lucille Sider Shares a Creative Coleus Christmas wit her Community
- Trying to survive COVID however we can with pumpkin pie, prayer and all
- When disaster strikes, our resilience is rebuilt with helping hands