Consequences of Youth

As I tossed and turned the past two nights due to pain in my right knee I’ve been wondering if my younger self would have behaved differently knowing the later consequences of my actions. I clearly remember my father walking by on the front porch of White Stone Lodge in Rutland, VT as I cranked my bindings down out of frustration of them releasing in the heavy, deep snow we had been enjoying on our annual ski trip to Killington. He was shaking his head and suggesting I might live to regret it. And I did the instant I heard the unbelievably loud pop of my knee coming apart as my body twisted while my right lower leg was immovably planted in the snow. By the frantic behavior of our French ski instructor, Serge, I’m pretty sure he heard it too.

As I took the familiar toboggan ride down the mountain with the ski patrol (not my first or my last), I had time to consider a contrite explanation for Dad. The regret was reinforced by considerable pain that lasted for quite some time and limited mobility for months. And as I approached high school graduation I wondered if it would end my plans to join the ski team in college. Turns out that was one regret I didn’t have to face, thanks to the sadistic workouts before the season strengthened the knee enough to hold it together.

Over the years my knee would “act up”, usually related to playing softball or volleyball and a few times while wading on slippery rocks in the strong currents of a trout river. However, as I attained middle age the “acting up” seemed to be less frequent and as retirement loomed it became a rather rare occurrence. This has probably been due to being less physically active, spending my working hours behind a desk. So, as I hear 70 knocking on the door, I am annoyed that the minor act of clearing a handful of rocks out of the grass at our local park to avoid the city crew damaging their mowing machinery would leave me limping with the familiar, sharp pain on the inside of my right knee.

I anticipate this will resolve itself as it has so many times before, if I take it easy for a couple days. Probably unlikely that even knowing then what I know now would have changed a thing. Youth would not be as much fun without the feeling of invincibility. My father knew that or he would have spent more time trying to change my errant ways. He knew my tendencies well. In fact, he was the ski patrolman on the front of the toboggan for my first broken leg toboggan ride. My second (last) broken leg came after I graduated from college, again at Killington, skiing off trail through the woods. That one was a doozy (spiral fractured tibia) and that time the toboggan was pulled by a snowmobile. Someday I might tell the story of two ski patrolmen and a plumber wrestling to remove my ski boot and riding to the Rutland hospital with the airport shuttle dude (think the stoner bus driver on the Simpsons) and his Lab puppy.

Anyway, teach your children well, but don’t expect them to consider the long-range consequences of their foolish actions. Some of us have to live it to learn it.

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