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I was being young — or is that ridiculous?

Michael’s age is really showing, the neighbours must have been saying in April. He has to use a cane to go out walking now.

It’s true that my age – I’m in my mid-70s – doesn’t even try to hide itself any more. It’s also true that in April I was using a cane to help me manage unusually short daily walks. And the cane could not hide a pronounced limp.

But I wish to tell the world – well, the Leaside world – that the cane and the limp were actually evidence of my still being young. I was suffering from a sports injury.

Like many (not all) septuagenarians, I don’t play sports any more. I played so many and so hard when I was young that by my mid-60s the cartilage in my knees had disappeared. For several years I’ve been walking on titanium knees, which work very well, but good sense precludes any games that require running.

Sports were always a vital part of our family life. On our large side lot – a key reason why we’d bought our corner property – we played baseball, football, soccer, frisbee, and all sorts of other contests with our children. These days nothing pleases us more than when the grandchildren arrive and our boring green lawn again turns into a baseball diamond, a gridiron, a soccer pitch. Without running, I still like to help out, say as a backcatcher or a goalkeeper.

Batting practice in our yard on this year’s gorgeously sunny Easter Sunday was a success all round. Various balls bounced off parts of the house, none went through windows, none rolled a kilometre down Broadway.

After-dinner soccer was shaping up nicely to round out the day’s athletics, with 8-year-old Jasmin taking on 6-year-old Joe, and Grampa, the old veteran with three-quarters of a century of experience, in the net.

Suddenly Jasmin, on the attack, deked out Joe, and got off the kind of shot that would have won her a tryout with Manchester United. The determined goaltender lurched to his left, his leg gave out, he collapsed in a heap, and had to be removed from the game. Fortunately an old cane was handy….

I had pulled a hamstring muscle in the back of my thigh. It’s an extremely painful injury that takes several weeks to heal. During those weeks I had to use my cane on most of my walks.

The last time I had experienced the vivid, almost kaleidoscopic character of hamstring pain had been as an 18-year-old football player. The essential truth, then, is that as I was limping around North Leaside this spring I was not feeling my advanced age at all. Rather I was experiencing one of the vivid sensations arising from being 18 years old all over again.

I wish I could re-live the other sensations I used to have as an 18-year -old. My wife tells me to act my age.

The wise British writer, John Mortimer, said, “No one should grow old who isn’t ready to appear ridiculous.”