My dad plays sudoku. He might be doing so right now in his hospital bed. A former math teacher, always a numbers guy... except in sports. In sports, he stressed sweat and tenacity. He bruised us in basketball. Knocked us silly in football. Would never, ever use a cart or any sort of wheeled apparatus in golf. Carry your bags.
I don't recall him registering pain. Even after the hellish motorcycle accident that almost robbed him of a leg and broke his jaw and arm. I'd plaster his cast with Star Wars stickers. He'd only complain of itches. I remember him falling hard in a rec-league basketball game. I was on the bench (foul trouble, probably) when he landed on the wood of San Francisco's Galileo High School Gym. The metal plate in his arm met floor and something just had to give. Skin. He wrapped the bloody mess in a bandage and just kept on playing... like the time he famously played a high school game on a busted ankle. I recall someone exclaim, "dang, dude."
My dad would kick your dad's ass. It's true. Big guy. 'Course, he wouldn't. Not an angry fella. Anger's chief enablers are fear and insecurity. Rob Pound isn't afraid enough of anything to be angry.
And he clearly isn't insecure. His wardrobe is almost entirely grey heather, usually featuring logos of red socks or green clovers. His car is equally nondescript, a dilapidated Ford. (Really, it's an ugly piece of shit.) Its bumpers feature the same logos as his t-shirts.
Death used to scare him. He's told me of youthful dreams of being in a car and not being able to reach the brake. He'd awake and death would loom. He recently told me he doesn't feel that way now. One last fear – the biggest of all – knocked down.
Not sure where the courage comes from. The family's bible is The Baseball Encyclopedia (again, a numbers guy). His all-time favorite prophet/author is Bill Russell. The closest thing to a shrine...
Maybe it is simply sport. If so, I'm glad he taught me and my brother so many:
Swimming/Bodysurfing - My dad's a waterman & might've given surfing a go, but that motorcycle accident ruined a few joints. I certainly benefited from the comfort he felt in any body of water. I recall he'd make it to all my collegiate contests, driving hours to see me outclassed in 15 minute heats by superior surfers from UC Santa Cruz, San Diego State, and the like.
Volleyball -Like him, it's origin is Massachusetts. A derivative of...
Badminton -Yeah, he enjoyed the crusty pastimes including croquet, bocci ball.
Racketball - I got pretty good at this, but never as good as him. He played in leagues circa 1970-85.
Tennis - Not a Pound specialty, but there were warm summers of family doubles on the cracked concrete of nearby parks.
Soccer - Asthmatic wheezes kept me parked as a useless fullback. My brother as goalie. This was not our sport, nor my dad's. Still, he'd kick the ball around... likely aghast at the lack of hands.
Bowling - my girlfriend and I used "bowling" as the alibi activity when we were really parked someplace quiet. Once, when he was kicking my ass by almost 100 points he wryly noted, "Thought you'd be better with all that practice." Not easily fooled, my dad.
Golf -No one you know has driven a ball farther. Straighter, sure. Farther, no.
Billiards -If golf is a sport, then so is pool. We spent his 50th birthday at a now-defunct old pool hall in San Francisco. Solid breaks.
Poker - It's seen on ESPN, yes? We'd play almost exclusively 5 Card Draw, the most mysterious of hands.
Baseball - My grandfather often told the wistful story of a badly-timed broken arm dissuading pro scouts. He sure could play baseball. It wasn't 'til he was 70 that I ever saw a ball get by him... and that one was a wicked hop.
Football - Usually the quarterback, he'd "draw" receiver routes on his shirt with a pointer finger clearly broken in his days as a lineman. He'd have us run Buttonhooks and T's. Nowadays, I'm actually shocked at the number of parents who can't throw a proper spiral. Glad mine's still kinda tight.
Basketball - Most of the New England newspaper clippings I've seen from the 50s-60s feature a lean, long dude hoisting hook shots and layups. More finesse than I recall from the bruising contests on our backyard hoops. Coaching youth basketball with him has been time well-spent. We won coaches of the year in 2017, never won a single game all season. But every contest was close, the kids had fun, and a couple players made the high school squad the next year... including his grandson.
In each endeavor, he advised humility. "Act like you've done it before" was a mantra. We never even high-five. And while sports make up a dwindling percentage of my days (just surfing a few times a week), I think the lessons paid dividends. Measured, numeric, & unafraid are always going to be good things to be.
(Still working on overcoming the fear of death.)
Nowadays, Rob Pound has cancer in his esophagus that's spread to enough organs to make commas depressing. He's got a fight ahead. In the meantime, this Thursday he and my mom celebrate 50 years of marriage. My brother and I will figure a way for the pair to spend some time together and toast something full of calories and protein to the strongest of marriages and strongest two figures I know.
And they'll be a ballgame on the hospital's television.