Bowling, I really miss bowling. I don’t have enough cartilage in my left knee and I really need a good left knee for bowling. I’m right handed and right handed bowlers need to land on their left foot when rolling the ball. Don’t believe me? Go bowling and roll the ball down the alley with your right hand while standing only on your bent right leg. I tried it – I looked even more goofy than I already am, (and I didn’t think it possible). If you’re a frequent visitor here then you know why my left leg is bad (here in this story). Memories though; my bowling memories are some of my favorite.
Kim and I got into bowling because of my parents. It was the early 80’s; land of one piece jumpsuits and frizzy hairdos. Mom and Joe attended the First Baptist Church in Hamilton. I don’t remember if their church already had a league or if we joined in the very first year, but my parents asked me and Kim to join them to form a team. Neither of us had ever really bowled before, but we accepted as it sounded like fun – Columbia Lanes, every Saturday afternoon. And besides, it gave me and Kim an opportunity to play the Centipede video game before the games began.
As with everything Kim attempts, true to form, she picked up bowling as quickly as everything else she ever tried in life.
Sideline – if you’re not familiar, Kim is also the artist behind the new cartoon section of this blog – The Edge of Insanity (almost)….that is unless she’s quit. She hasn’t performed again so I think I may be looking for a new artist soon.
Hefting a little 10 lb. purple ball, she’d roll it down the middle and pick up most of her spares, (if she hadn’t already made her strike that is). As with every other sport Kim attempted, she was of one of, or THE best female bowler in our league. Oh, this game is simple – you mean I just have to roll this ball down this lane and knock down those little pins? No problem! No problem indeed. My mom was not too bad either.
Me? I was pretty decent I guess. As with all sports, I started out slowly and picked up speed as we went along. I think I had only a 150 average our first year but by the 4th or 5th year I typically would finish around 175-185 – usually close to the top in our league. We earned several bowling congress patches so I guess we did ok.
Oh, and I even had a 279 game! Wow, you know how you can still picture perfectly some memories, how you felt, what you thought at the time? I remember this game like that. I had a strike in the 1st frame & 2nd frames, then a 9 spare in the 3rd. From there on out, nothing but strikes.
I started getting nervous sometime around the 6th frame after logging 5 strikes in the game. By the time I hit the 8th frame, everyone around me made it worse by stopping to watch me and when I stepped up on to the lane in the 10th frame, my legs were shaking a little. Everyone within our entire league had stopped to watch my finish.
I remember this like it was yesterday. I was nervous, but I rolled that first ball right down into the pocket – Strike! I was most nervous then on the 2nd ball. I remember my knees shaking and feeling all eyes on me as I put that ball down the lane. I missed the pocket but it was far enough off of the head pin on the left side that it sent the pins flying for another strike. When I got up for my final ball, I was no longer nervous since the last ball meant less to my final score than all the others. But it was perfect, another strike. I had thrown 11 strikes, missing a perfect 300 game by a single pin in the 3rd frame – 279!
I was so good that I even had a groupie. You heard me right, I said it. I had a groupie. Her name was Debbie and she was the preacher’s daughter. I called her ‘Little Debbie’. I think Debbie liked me because I didn’t treat her like a little kid, (even though she was when I first met her). I think Debbie came with her parents originally but soon bowled on one of the other teams. Every week, soon into the first game, Lil Debbie would come over to visit me. All smiles and dimples, we could always count on her to visit with me. My wife would see her coming and announce – here comes your little girlfriend. I usually would be keeping the score, (these are the days without automatic score keeping), and if she saw an opening in the seat next to me, she’d fly into it.
I admit it, I thought it was cute and liked the attention. It was all harmless of course. I think maybe she looked around and saw me as someone close to her age she trusted and could talk to, (being around people who talk a lot helped to make me a good listener). 😉 I think Debbie was only 12 when she moved to town with her parents and maybe 14 the first time at the bowling alley. Kim and I were only in our early 20’s and most everyone else in our league was older, (except for a guy I remember named Dan who had the loudest infectious laugh – “WAY TO GO PEGGY!”). Debbie would tell me something cute or funny about her week or she might ask for my opinion on some matter at school or with her parents. I really don’t remember anything we ever chatted about. I just remember that she’d always be there, laughing, always seeming to be in a good mood. Cute Lil Debbie, my bowling groupie.
I mentioned her dad, the preacher. I think Pastor W had been raised in a Catholic orphanage and became evangelistic style baptist preacher. One night he told mom that Joe was the most honest man he ever knew. If you asked a question you better be prepared to hear his honest response. Pastor was a nice guy, solid person, even came over to our house one evening when I was sick of a cold or flu to offer up a quick prayer for my rapid recovery. No doubt my mom put him up to that so I could be there for our Saturday league. 😉
As a team, we ‘ham and egged’ it pretty well, finishing in 1st place almost every year. If one of us weren’t hitting the spares, the other three would turn on the juice to pick up the slack. Like all good teams, very rarely would we fail to pick each other up. We even whipped up on the Reds baseball players! That’s right – Paul Householder & Ron Oester played in the league one year. I can’t recall if they were just subs or permanent but we made mincemeat of them. What a fun time those years were.
My favorite memories though from those years are of my stepfather, Joe. Aside from stock car racing, bowling was Joe’s favorite sport. He just loved our Saturday bowling league and we loved bowling with Joe. I learned my approach from Joe. He would slide with each step all the way until release, and then would toss out a huge hook. For those of you non-bowlers, if you bend and release your wrist at a certain point, the ball can have a line of trajectory that makes a nice arc. When thrown perfectly, it will connect right into the middle space between the head and 3rd pin (for a right hander – 1st & 2nd for a lefty). A perfectly thrown hook will send all ten pins flying almost instantaneously; a thing of bowling beauty.
Joe’s smile was infectious as he was normally happy, unless of course he was in pain. Joe suffered occasionally from back pain. No doubt his back pain was not helped when he stomped on the lane. You see, if he hit 9 pins and saw any kind of wobble in the lone pin standing, Joe would quickly stomp very hard on the lane in hopes of the vibration being enough to jiggle the final pin to the ground for a strike. It was funny to watch considering that it actually worked at least 50% of the time. It was fun at least until I think it helped to make his back pain worse.
He even went through back surgery. And at this point, I think I’m just going to copy/paste a text from my mom after I asked about Joe’s back surgery:
After back surgery, he got staph infection and had to be readmitted to the hospital to have an incision opened to withdraw pus with syringe every day. He was in isolation for about a month and started having gall stone attacks. They released him to his MD at home and that’s when Dr. Kappers found pus in his urine & followed up with further tests and found cancerous tumor in his kidney. They operated and got it before it had metastasized. Lived another 20 years. Then heart attacks, surgery, and 18 mos. later, lung cancer. He sure had more than his share of pain and suffering, but always seemed to find humor most of the time. Miss him every day. That was Dr. Kappers… He saved Joe’s life. Great Doctor!
For the curious, you can read more of Dr Kappers here (link)
No doubt, his applying 10 times his body weight down on his joints didn’t help, but that was Joe. Joe always put his 100% into everything he took on. While Joe was sidelined by any of his misfortunes, we had a guy named Paul fill in. Paul was a friend of Joe’s, a quiet and unassuming guy, very nice. But although we were able to hold our own with Paul’s help, we were missing our teammate.
Never the quitter, Joe put so much into it that he decided he’d learn to bowl left handed to take pressure off the right side of his back. He never got as good as he was when bowling right handed, but by the time mid-season rolled around, he was pretty decent. The best thing though was that he demonstrated he was not a quitter. It wasn’t only about wanting to keep bowling, he wanted to be part of our team and didn’t want to let us down.
I intend to write more about Joe one day in a future story, so I’ll end here. The lesson I learned there and would like to get across is one I mentioned in my last story – always be learning. Use what tools you have and don’t be afraid to try and learn new things. Perhaps it’s time for me to practice what I am preaching; maybe I should go teach myself to bowl left-handed!
Ah….memories, right? My fondest memories are those where I felt carefree and stress-free; memories of times where I’m with people I love and we’re all laughing and having fun. I think that’s why I’m still fond of playing card games and wish I had more opportunities to do so – we’re all just focused on the game, sitting together and laughing. My bowling memories are just like that – the four of us supporting each other, trying to win, laughing with our opponents and with each other. I miss those times…..but my glass is half full – I’m thankful for having the memories and for being able to cherish them today.