When it comes to bowling, I strike out

September 28, 1998


I went bowling last Sunday, and now my thumb is numb.

My thumb is number on the end, swollen in the middle, and excruciatingly painful at the bottom, where it meets my hand. So much for exercise.

So much for my mom. It was her idea.

Before she moved here, she made me promise her only one thing - that I would join a bowling league with her.

I thought that reasonable.

"Sure," I said.

HA HA HA HA HA, my brother would have said, had he heard.

It must be noted here that I have bowled only once in 30 years.

Ten pin bowling balls weigh more than newborns. They look like big cannonballs with holes in them. You are supposed to stick three of your fingers in these holes, and propel the ball down the alley toward 10 "pins." You are supposed to knock as many pins down as possible.


You are not supposed to destroy your body in the process.

When mom and I went to Sunshine Lanes in Rouzerville, Pa., Sunday at roughly 6 p.m. for our first doubles league competition, I was feeling pretty perky.

Mom looked like a study in slow motion, mostly because a heel spur had all but rendered her right foot useless.

Mom came to the alleys with her Dexter bowling shoes, her blue bowling ball and bag. She was the oldest person in the league.

Sam, the young man on the team we were bowling against, had three balls for different situations. He wore a bowling glove. He had technique and incredible power.

Sam watched in slack-jawed awe as mom bowled a strike, and then almost fell over when she made two in a row.

All that without her powder. Mom has powder she uses on her shoes and hands. "I left it at home," she complained.

Rub it in, mom.

After bowling that second consecutive strike, mom reminded me that she bought her ball at a Goodwill store in Ohio for $2. It wasn't even custom-fitted. "That's why it's inscribed 'Barb' instead of 'Helen,'" mom explained.

Rub it in, mom.

As for me, I was wearing rented shoes and had to fish the racks for a ball that was the right size and weight. I ended up using about six balls, none of which felt quite right.

I think I may have injured my thumb during the third and, thank God, final game, when it got stuck in a heavy ball I was trying to release from my hand and propel toward the pins.

I was almost jerked off my feet before I heard a sound similar to the one a plunger makes when you're trying to suction something out of your toilet.

My thumb had popped free, and been returned to me.

I bowled a gutter ball.

The humiliation was unbearable. I used to be a good bowler.

Used to be.

Has been.

"Honey, you're doing just fine," mom said. "You just need to remember to keep your wrist straight. You're turning your wrist."

"I didn't turn my wrist, mom," I said. "The ball did. It was stuck on my thumb."

"I'm just trying to help," she said.

"I'm sorry," I mumbled.

The next time up I used mom's ball or Barb's ball, however you want to look at it, and managed to get it off my hand cleanly. I left six pins standing. It might as well have been a seven-ten split.

I managed to hit one of them.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw mom, who was in the next lane, getting another strike.

I was beginning to hate her. So was Sam.

"My heel's really bothering me," mom said as she limped back to the bench.

"Shut up," I thought.

It wasn't a nice thought, and I promptly asked God for forgiveness.

Thankfully, the games went fast. I only had to ask for forgiveness twice more before the night was out.

The next morning, I got up slowly, creaked downstairs, and met mom, who had already been up for six hours. She's an early riser.

Mom was smiling. She's always in a good mood. It's disgusting.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"Just fine, honey. How are you?"

"I feel like I've been run over by a Mack truck," I said.

"I wonder why?" mom asked innocently. "You don't think it could have been the bowling, do you?"

I wanted to kill her, but I didn't have the strength.

I decided to drink coffee instead. I grabbed the cup, only to find it was much too hot to handle. All my fingers let go of it, except my thumb. That's when I realized it was numb.

When I went to sit down, I noticed to my horror that something else was wrong.

My butt was stiff.

I didn't think that was possible.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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