Losses in life tend to outnumber the wins. Hopefully, the big defeats are few and widely separated, but the little losses, the tiny humiliations and minor ignominies, come along in a steady patter. They are what Hamlet meant when he talked about suffering the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune.
The huge victories like a Powerball jackpot or a Super Bowl championship are elusive things that only happen to other people. The rest of us rednecks, who make up the unwashed masses, have to dial back our expectations and settle for our most jubilant moments to be landing a new job or the birth of a child.
Life is an eighty year long series of kicks in the nuts. The only variable is how long you live.
That bar may have to be set even lower in the future. It won’t be too long before the rest of my children have left the nest, and as ornery as I’ve grown, there aren’t too many employers willing to keep me around for very long. Animal husbandry-related births and discovering the chicken coop wasn’t blown down by a windstorm will have to suffice as moments of triumph from here on out.
I’m willing to take small victories wherever I can. Maybe it’s a function of growing older.
My youngest son has pestered his mother and I to let him play football for the past several years. Our reluctance had nothing to do with the prospect of physical injury to the lad. If I were to tell the truth for a change, the twerp could use a good knocking around by someone not related to him.
Our sticking point was the cost involved just to indulge a teenager’s fantasy of O.J. Simpson touchdowns and Mark Gastineau sacks. My wife and I know the reality more closely resembles a rendition of The Miracle Worker with Helen Keller as captain and the remainder of the squad made up of her less coordinated clones.
I try not to pick on the mentally handicapped, but if the protective helmet fits, I’m gonna point you toward the short bus.
Now that he attends a school with a football team, complete with issued equipment, a coach, and a field to play on, Mrs. Cunha and I relented to Carlos, Jr.’s pleas to become a gridiron warrior.
They are currently sitting on a two and two record, but I’d prefer to see them closer to zero and four.
The desire to see my son lose has nothing to do with my win record in school sports. I had one season each of basketball, football, rugby, and track, where I threw shot put and discus. We went undefeated in rugby, broke even in basketball, and had exactly one win in football.
In a school so small that we only had a varsity track team, and still had trouble mustering enough runners for relay events, I came in dead last in two events every single meet. Each Friday for four months, I had my ass handed to me by kids who had their throwing technique down far better than I did.
My parents, bless their hearts, would ask how I did after every meet. I don’t think they meant to poke at fresh wounds, but I still felt like a loser having to admit defeat, yet again.
Losing might suck, but winning only makes you suck more.
Me and defeat are old drinking buddies. We’ve spent so much time in each other’s company, I’m surprised we’re not engaged. I’ve failed so often and consistently, I plan on failure and am surprised when things don’t go sideways.
I caught the tread of my boot on a door threshold about a week ago and took a tumble down a four-inch step. Even in my creeping middle age, my body still remembers how to take a fall.
Despite tumbling headlong onto cement, I sustained only a bruised toe and a thumb-size scrape on my elbow. The to-go container I was carrying at the time didn’t even pop open. I kept that sucker up out of harm’s way like an infantryman holding his rifle aloft while fording a river.
The little wins in life are the sweetest.
There’s another point to this story of my clumsiness; expect to fail. Then get up and keep moving.
Some of my more recent failures include:
- Grape trellis posts leaning inward that now need to be reset.
- Misreading rabbit genitalia that resulted in unplanned breeding and a lost litter.
- Accidentally killing my daughter’s favorite chicken.
These are only a few of my screw-ups that come to mind from the past year or so, and don’t even touch on the curve balls life throws just because it can. Luckily for me, I’m such an experienced loser that I hardly notice anymore. My kids, on the other hand, could use a little more practice; especially, my youngest son.
Maybe it was the years of holding back while playing board games, so as to not crush their little spirits. Perhaps, I should have let them fall out of a few more trees. God knows, nearly being trampled to death by a milk cow was a defining moment in my young life.
However, a trip to the Emergency Room is a lot more expensive than it was thirty years ago. I suspect my children would be whisked off by Child Protective Services, if they showed up to the Emergency Room as frequently as my brother and I did.
Most families don’t know the Emergency Room nurses well enough to include them on the mailing list for the family Christmas newsletter.
Winning is a great feeling, but it’s not very instructive, in the grand scheme of things. Thinking about it, winning doesn’t even teach how to be a “good winner.” If it did, winning coaches wouldn’t have to remind their little turds to be magnanimous during the post-game high-fives and “good game” lineup.
I spent this summer working Carlos, Jr. like a rented mule. Not only could he not maintain pace with a fat, old man, but he bitched and moaned the whole time. There’s only so much whining about the uselessness of homestead skills I can stand before giving in to the urge to hit him with a shovel. Apparently, sunrise to sunset does not match up with a teenager’s circadian rhythm.
The fatal flaw of teenagers is their tendency to believe in skills and abilities they don’t possess.
Carlos, Jr. showed up to football practice full of more hubris than most fourteen-year-olds. I’ll admit the kid has speed, but that’s about the only natural talent the boy’s got. As near as I can tell, he’s not even in the top half of the team, on an individual skill basis. He also seems to think it’s everyone else’s job to make him shine.
After months and months of disabusing the boy of his notion that wealth and celebrity are a mere bus ride to Hollywood away, the new route to riches and glory is paved with professional sports.
My son is the best player on the team. Just ask, and he’ll tell you so.
Lacking a survey of the team, I can’t be certain, but something tells me they disagree with the boy’s self-assessment. I know a cheap shot and an intentionally missed block when I see one, and so do the coach and Mrs. Cunha, but some lessons can only be taught by a child’s peers.
Hopefully, each bruise and slam into the turf is another of life’s little losses that teaches him how to win with some grace. The cumulative weight of all these little losses has yet to break the ice of understanding, but I’m hopeful. A losing season would hurry that process along.
After two losses in a row, my son became dejected and considered quitting because his talents weren’t employed effectively.
Jesus Christ. It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it?
Judging by his black eye and a bruise pattern that reminds me of a cheetah, I think his reluctance to continue has more to do with the unofficial peer learning process than it does resource mismanagement by the coach.
Mrs. Cunha and I probably took a little more pleasure than we should have when his face dropped at being told he was going to finish out the season. It drooped even farther when informed we expected him to play through high school, as well.
It’s the little losses in life that are most instructive.
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