|Field of Dreams, with Puddles: Unthank Park softball diamond, on a soggy Saturday|
But I’m standing on the landing at the Failing Street Pedestrian Bridge: Friday, June 15th, just returning from a weekly hospital appointment where I receive a 30-minute infusion of Prolastin to counteract the degenerative effects of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. On this glorious spring day, my oxygen saturation—taken always as part of my “vital signs”—stood at 99%: nothing special for a healthy person (in fact, slightly low), unheard of for me—I often hover in the 94% range. As my nurses tell me, the difference between 94% & 99% is much more significant than one would guess. Typically 90% is considered a cut-off point for needing supplemental oxygen.
As I’d walked from the Overland Park Max station to the Failing Street Bridge I’d reviewed an assumption in my mind. In Thursday’s post, I mentioned how I’d stopped playing softball early in the 00s. In fact, I’d played well in the final July 4th tournament—but I decided it was simply too difficult for me physically to continue. I “couldn’t” do it anymore.
Of course it’s also true that my level of physical activity in general began to decline around that same time. When I first moved to Idaho I was in quite good shape: I’d played baseball at least weekly in San Francisco for a few years & I’d also both walked & biked a lot: no car. Once I made my new home in Idaho, I started in on my career of “boho rancher” with a vengeance—building woodsheds & fences & repairing outbuildings, splitting wood & hauling it, summer & winter alike—& more besides. While I realized something was wrong with my breathing, it wasn’t until after I took sick with a severe flu in December of 00 that the situation became so pronounced I had to drop my denial & seek medical attention.
As the great blues musician Son House once said, “If you think you can’t do something, don’t try—because you’ll sure enough fail.” But the fact is, subtly at first, I began to tell myself I “couldn’t” do certain physical things—apropos to softball, I told myself I “couldn’t” run. But it’s startling in retrospect how insidious “can’t” proves to be. Soon enough the list grows, despite the fact that I was being strongly encouraged by both my general practitioner & my pulmonolgist to be more active; I was being gently encouraged by my significant other, & she often took the time to create opportunities for exercise; I’m sure my recalcitrance was frustrating for her.
I’ve never been good about exercise for its own sake. Give me a glove & a ball, & I’ve been quite happy to run around; & for whatever quirky reasons, I’m always happy to walk significant distances in a city; in San Francisco, I was happy to bike both for its own sake & for its convenience. But give me exercise equipment or exercises, & I lose interest all too quickly. & this also leads to further “can’t do” notions.
So much of this was flashing thru my mind as I walked from Overlook Park to Failing Street. & a little voice said: “Do you know that you can’t play softball?” & I had to say, “No, I don’t know that.”
Once I was back in my apartment, I looked to see what the age limit is on senior citizen leagues in Portland; I know some senior centers open up membership (like AARP) at age 55, & I’d qualify at that rate. But as far as I could determine, the cut-off for the senior citizen teams here is 65 (which surprised me—I definitely didn’t think it would be over 60.) Also, when I looked for teams that were open to disabled members, I only found a veteran’s league (as in service veteran’s); I think that’s great, but I don’t qualify.
On a lark, I also looked up Wiffle Ball. Wiffle is a misunderstood sport, actually—although the bats & balls are invariably found in the toy section, there’s the potential for quite a bit of skill in both throwing & hitting a Wiffle Ball, & I was aware that some adults play Wiffle Ball recreationally. In fact, I found a Wiffle Ball league right here in Portland: the Columbia Cowlitz Wiffleball Association. This is an interesting find, because while there’s definitely skill involved in Wiffle Ball, it involves much less exertion than even softball, due to the fact that in official Wiffle Ball games, there are no real base runners—only “ghost runners,” as you recall from playground & backyard ball games in which there were never enough people to form full teams. There is some amount of fielding, but not that much running (tho catching a Wiffle Ball with all its wacky spin is definitely in the greased pig category.)
But softball remains my first choice—it’s closer to baseball, & actually I have no experience in “real” Wiffle Ball play, so there’d be some learning curve, especially in hitting something that moves more (when thrown by someone who knows how) than any baseball. “Can” I do it? I’m targeting next spring—leagues have already formed for this season, & I know I’m not currently in the kind of shape I need to attain. The big test: running. Other than hustling across a street occasionally when the situation requires it, I can’t recall the last time I actually ran. I’d need to be able to run at least 120 feet/40 yards (the distance of two bases) & be able to remain functional at the end of that run—which means that realistically, I should be prepared to run 240 feet/80 yards, since in an actual game it’s possible one might have to do that in increments that came in quick succession.
I’m walking even more—I’ve decided to shoot for the popular 10,00 steps per day, & in the week I’ve been keeping score, I’ve done well. I have some thought of either getting my bike out here or buying a new one (new to me at least.) As far as the “skills” go—I’ll be rusty, but I expect I can still catch the ball reasonably well, & there are batting cages so I can work on hitting.
The odds? I realize they may be no better than 50/50—the running is a big deal, & I haven’t tried it yet. But it makes me happy to think about, & I tell myself that even if I finally reach a point where the can’t becomes not just a mental construct but an injection of realism, then so be it. The increased exercise—in ways I generally like—will be all for the good for my physical condition.
& that’s where I’m at on this rainy June afternoon!