The Old Coot elbows his way through life

I was swimming laps at the high school pool the other day and experienced yet another affirmation of the aging process; my left elbow started killing me. HOW SORE WAS IT? It was so sore, I could only pull it through the water at one-quarter speed. When you do that, and your other arm is working fine, you swim in a circular pattern, not a straight line. I’d take three strokes with each arm and then bang into the sidewall. Three strokes, bang; three strokes, bang. It was a nice cadence, but not very effective when your objective is to get from one end of the pool to the other without hurting yourself. I eventually backed off with my right arm and was able to swim a lap in sort of a straight line. But, it took me four times longer than normal to swim from one end of the pool to the other.   

A sore elbow is a serious condition for an old coot. We rely on our elbows. It’s a mechanism we use all the time, usually to get the attention of a poor soul standing next to us when we want to make a comment about someone or something. First, you feel the elbow; then you get the derogatory remark. It’s hissed out of the side of the old coot’s mouth, “Look at that young fool over there, his eyebrow is pierced!” You take a step to the left, to avoid another elbow but it doesn’t work; he moves with you. Then you get it again. This time you’re ready for it; you tense up to save yourself from a sore rib cage. He then says, “Look at him now; he’s getting into the car with that gorgeous babe!” You want to say, “Of course he is, you old coot. He’s “with it” and you don’t even get it.” But, you hold yourself back, deciding it’s better to keep your mouth shut and get away from him before the elbow starts up again.  

The “old coot” elbow is developed over a long period of time. It starts when an old coot gets married and he and his wife have a child. The wife feels “it” for the first time when she gets home from the hospital. She drifts off into a deep sleep, the first one in months, now that she can sleep on her stomach. She’s in dreamland, lying on a tropical beach with a hotel staff seeing to her every whim. WHAM! She’s startled back to consciousness by a triple elbow to the ribs. “What?” She cries. The lump next to her in bed says, “The baby is crying.” Somehow, she manages to get up and drag herself over to the crib. The “elbow” has been born. She’ll eventually learn that it has a large vocabulary. For now, it just says, “The baby is crying!” Soon enough, it will say, “Josh threw up,” or, “Somebody’s at the door.” The “elbow” will dominate their relationship. 

At cocktail parties, it will be used as an escape mechanism. She’ll feel the elbow in her ribs, followed by a whispered, “There’s Helen and Jim; let’s sneak into the other room so they don’t talk our ears off. Besides, I owe Jim fifty bucks” Eventually, she’ll develop an “elbow” of her own. It will be more than a match for his; the female version comes to a sharper point, one that can fracture a rib if the user gets over excited. It too, is used at cocktail parties, as in, “Did you see that awful dress Midge is wearing?” If hubby doesn’t acknowledge the comment fast enough, he’ll get a second helping. This only happens once or twice. After that, he never fails to respond immediately. 

After 25 years of marriage, the “elbow” loses its effectiveness. Both parties develop thick calluses on their rib cages. If an intruder breaks into the house and she elbows him, to say, “I heard a noise downstairs; go and check it out,” nothing happens. The old coot goes right on snoring, dreaming he’s accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He struts across the stage in a dazzling white tux, like a Hollywood star at the Oscars. In real life, if he ever got any kind of an award, the picture would be quite different. He’d limp and shuffle across the stage in a dark blue suit. The static electricity in his pant legs would have them clinging to his white athletic socks, a good three inches above a pair of mismatched shoes, one brown, one black. A size “42-L” tag would dangle from his sleeve, the one he missed when removing the rest of the Sear’s stickers because his elbow was too sore to reach it. 

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