I am sitting here with my coffee, enjoying my freedom from near future pain. When he gets up in an hour or three, my son Sam is going to take me to the YMCA. We'll work on chest and back, he said last night before falling into bed suffused with health and fitness.
When I go to the Y by myself, I use machines that simulate activity: pretend running, pretend stair climbing, pretend sit-ups. This works for me: I'm a fiction guy, and I'm middle-aged. Sam is neither one. His workouts involve heavy weights placed on a bar and lifted at great risk to self. First time he told me to spot for him, I asked how come. So I don't drop the weight and crush myself, he said. I gulped. (So far it has not come to this. The few times I have helped him there seemed no danger of crushing. I think he was trying to make my flesh creep.)
Typically, Sam sweats through one set on the bar, then turns it over to me. In order for me to lift it at all, we have to remove half of the weight plates. Sam shakes his head sadly -- his dad is a weakling. I lift the weights nine times, ten times, eleven ... no, not eleven times. But Sam won't let me stop. Come on, he says, you can do this. I shake my head. Yes you can! He helps me get the bar up to full extension. One more, he says. I give him Jack Benny. Now, come on, I tell him. No talking -- lift! And he's not kidding. I am shaking with fatigue, but we get through one more repetition. Then we add the weights back on so he can repeat. Then take them off so I can repeat. (Weight training involves a great deal of time lifting the weights off and on the various bars. Though come to think of it, that's a kind of weight training too.)
In between lying on our backs to lift weights, sitting against an inclined bench to lift weights using different muscles, kneeling on a bench to lift with still different muscles, Sam does sets of chin-ups. I do too, but my sets are smaller. (One is a set. I remember from fifth grade. I wonder if nothing a set?)
Sam is encouraging and dictatorial -- the best kind of coach. And he's clearly having fun. Me too. Despite the pain, I'm having the time of my life being bullied by my son.
Just wait til I get him on the squash court.