Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Strong Man

For some reason, I've been thinking about my Big Brother Paul a lot this morning.

For those of you who don't know, or don't remember, I had an older brother by two years, who died in 2001.

But what I was thinking about this morning was him as a young teenager.

He had begun that pulling away that teens do, from the total dependence on parents and hanging out with friends instead of siblings.

This particular time that I'm getting to was around the spring of 1973 and we were living in Vidalia, Louisiana.

Paul was in the last throes of the 8th grade, and the high school football coaches came to the junior high to recruit players to have spring training with the high school, to prepare the ones who would be in the 9th grade in the following fall.

So Paul decided to try out for football.

They start the 8th graders, soon to be 9th graders, on running and lifting weights.

And one of the things they had to do is to test the limits of strength of each player to see what weight that player would work out with on each exercise.

For example, if you could bench press 200 pounds (91kg) only once or twice, then your workout on that exercise might begin much lower, and end up near your max lifting weight.

The coaches had Paul, who had never played football, who had never lifted weights take his turn at the bench press.

He freaked everyone out by maxing out on the bench press at 315 pounds (143kg).

Here was a 15 year old eighth grader who had never touched a set of weights in his life and he bench presses 315 pounds, three times.

He ended up starting for the varsity football team as a freshman.

Paul quit football after that first and only freshman season, the reasons for which are a different post.

What I've been thinking about this morning was just how stinking strong Paul was.

He was truly one of THE most naturally physically strong people I have ever met.

Paul was always a confident person, and I always envied him that self assurance. Lord knows I still don't have much.

And eventually I grew to be a bit taller than Paul as an adult, and even passed him in size and weight.

But no matter how big I ended up; no matter how dedicated I was to exercise and lifting weights, something I loved to do when I was younger, I never even came close to how strong Paul was.

He always wanted to arm wrestle me when we saw one another over the years, to see if I had gained any strength. And I am at best average strength, certainly no weakling though, and yet I never once beat him at arm wrestling.

In fact, at the height of my weight lifting days, whenever Paul and I arm wrestled, he would just sit there and hold me in place and wait for me to turn purple with effort, give a little smile and effortlessly push my arm over to the table.

Once when we were younger, I guess he decided to not play with me and to see how fast he could put my arm down. The only thing that saved me from having my shoulder ripped out of it's socket was that I slid away from him, off my chair and onto the floor as an instinctual act to preserve my arm.

And years later, after he had had heart attacks and heart bypass surgery and lost a lot of weight, he could beat me at will.

Never once did my best efforts at arm wrestling him even so much as cause him a little tiny tic of concern. He just looked at me, and I guess he waited to see me turn a certain color, and then he would slowly press my arm to the table.

I saw him once lift the back end of a late 60's Chevy pickup to allow a jack to be placed under it. Our uncle didn't have the correct jack, and the piece of junk one he did have wouldn't ratchet down far enough.

So Paul just squatted, grabbed the rear bumper of the pickup near one corner, and lifted that corner back wheel off the ground a couple of inches, and our uncle put his jack under there and Paul eased the truck down onto the jack.

They made pickup trucks with a lot more steel in the 1960's than they do today.

My Dad and I just looked at one another with bug-eyes, saying nothing.

Heck. What could you say about something like that?

I guess though, that this story doesn't really have a point.

I was just thinking about Paul this morning, and how he always wanted to arm wrestle.

And how really, crazily strong he was.

Some days I just really miss loved ones who have passed away.

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