Gravity has begun taking a noticeable toll on my body. My chest is sliding southward toward a gradually expanding support system. Taking a deep breath can disguise the situation, but I can only hold that pose for 43 seconds. That’s not a guess. I timed it.
I’m having a recurring nightmare where I’ve transitioned into an old man from Michigan walking on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida. Their distinct look during my childhood vacations was perhaps not unique to that fine state, but the car tags at The Seahorse Motel showed Michigan had a clear lead.
It was easy to spot the aged men as they ambled along the Atlantic Ocean with their wives. They wore baggy plaid Bermuda shorts well above their rounded stomachs. Wide leather belts were just for looks, as there was no way the shorts could slip down. Skinny stark-white legs poked out from loosely fitted openings but were only exposed for a few inches. Black high-top dress socks covered everything between their upper shins down to their wingtip shoes.
I could distinguish them from a distance with their unbuttoned collared shirts. Their hairy gray chests jiggled with every step. I tried to look away but sometimes couldn’t. Now in my dreams I frantically check the license plate on my truck to make sure I’m still living in Georgia.
We sometimes see things we can’t forget, but there’s often a lesson if we want one. It’s those haunting memories of sagging bodies of Michigan’s old men which has inspired me to substitute apples for ice cream this summer. My plan has not worked as well as I expected. Making that switch twice a week has been rather ineffective so far. A friend of mine says a change in diet works best when supplemented with exercise, but I’m getting a second opinion.
I’ve heard that apple peelings have vitamins but that’s not how I prefer to eat them. That’s partly due to watching Sheriff Andy Taylor peeling apples on his front porch as Barney admired his technique. Andy kept the peeling in one long piece and Barney was delighted when offered a turn. Sometimes I peel them that same way just to give a nod to my long-ago friends from Mayberry.
We had a couple of apple trees in the yard of our rural Dooly County home. They didn’t produce much fruit, but there were always a few apples to eat. We would pick one or two each day during the season, plucking them a little green before the worms beat us to them.
I guess the threat of worms is why even today I prefer apples and other fruit to be a little on the green side. We like what we get used to or maybe we get used to what we like. Either way I only want fruit while it’s firm, well before any suspicious softness.
My father told me something about apples one day that I think about on occasion. It was a Mayberry kind of scene that you won’t find on TV shows made today.
Daddy and I picked a couple of apples from the tree one afternoon for a snack. We wiped them on our dirty shirts, which accomplished very little but was standard protocol. He took a big bite, which I tried to match, then he stared rather curiously at the apple in his hand. That’s when he posed a question I won’t ever forget.
“Do you know what’s worse than finding a worm in an apple?” he asked.
“No sir,” I responded. “What is it?”
“Finding half a worm,” he said.
We laughed as Daddy took another bite. I borrowed his Barlow and peeled the rest of my apple in one long piece.
It’s too late to apologize to the rotund men who strolled the beaches of my childhood. But if I could, I would tell them I now understand they were fighting a battle against gravity that’s almost impossible to win. And with all my heart I wish they could know, I’m sorry I ever snickered.
Happy Father’s Day to all, and God bless.