30 August 2011

The Strength of Ten Men

At various points in my life I have been asked to help people lift objects, to assist placing an item here or there, or to move things. When the job requires two people I like to say I can do it myself, for I have the strength of ten men. This quip either causes others to giggle or to look at me with much doubt but most of the time folk just roll their eyes...

At one point in my life I believe I did have at least the strength of one & half men (in college I could bench press 295). In fact I am almost convinced that Athens Baptist called me primarily because I could move things. You should have seen the face of one of the deacons when I single handedly moved a large screen television. After 11 years in the pulpit, spotty patterns of running, and enjoyable bicycle rides my "exceptional" strength has largely vanished. The only weight lifting I do now is throwing my kids at the pool (which is quite a work out if I do say so myself).

Nevertheless my children believe I have the strength of ten men (largely because I tell it to them over and over, amazing how a mantra can infiltrate and find residence in the mind of a child -well, all but my daughter, she says I only have the strength of three men - which I will take any day). This tall tale started about six or seven years ago when I took the kids for a walk in the woods in RI. I would look for dead/rotting trees, no larger than 10 inches in diameter, to push down. {Recall reader, I grew up on a lonely dirt road in WV. I spent countless hours roaming the woods around my house developing, cultivating, and honing this skill}. Oh brother, if you could have seen their faces when I pushed down the tree. They asked how I did it, back then I said with my bare hands - which they translated as "bear hands." Over the past few years "bear hands" became the strength of ten men.

I tell my kids the true story of how my father was struck by lightning not once but twice and lived! That part is true. I then stretch the story by incorporating a Marvel Comics storyline by stating the lighting strikes mutated my father's genes which were then passed onto me giving me the strength of ten men. This story works well in the family because all the kids now know the plot. However, when a neighboring kid, or a Kindergarten teacher, is told the story in the flashing pace of a five year old not every detail is properly conveyed.

Lately the story has taken on a new twist: has my special genetically mutated talent passed onto the next generation? Several tests have proven that it has been passed onto them: #2 can squeeze the air out of a ziploc bag, #3 can shake my hand with exceptional force, and #1 can braid her hair with her eyes close. I don't know where this storyline will go next but it is bringing hours of happiness to me and my family.

Postscript: The other day #1 was contemplating who she could dress up as for a Harry Potter themed birthday party. I suggested Phil Donahue, which brought about fifteen consecutive eye rolls. Thinking of Phil Donahue (yes this is one of those If you give a mouse a cookie stream of consciousness lines of thought) made me remember a time when I was five or six, actually, watching The Phil Donahue show (we only had two channels back then). The show had a group of child karate performers which I watched with great amazement especially as one kid flipped an adult over his shoulder. As soon as my dad came into the living room I told him about the flip (with, I am sure, the same flashing pace my youngest shares things) and asked if I could try it on him. He agreed. We went to the hallway, I grabbed his hand, and my father voluntarily let me flip him over my shoulder. I was amazed, speechless, and thought for sure I flipped a grown 200 lbs. man of muscle over my little shoulder. My father went over my shoulder and landed flat on his back. You may think what a considerate gesture for a father, which it was, but my house had concrete not wooden floors. Let me say that again as you consider flipping onto your back onto a concrete floor. My father was a construction worker, you could have, literally, parked a cement truck on the floors of our house. Needless to say, when mom and my sister came home later that day - dad was not willing to let me show them my new feat of strength.

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