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A Grandfather's Guide to Physical Fitness

By Jerry Zezima

As an out-of-shape geezer who drinks red wine to avoid heart trouble and believes that exercise and health food will kill you, I am proud, happy and practically comatose to report that I recently got the best workout I’ve had in months. And with not one but two personal trainers.

I refer, of course, to my granddaughters.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, I hadn’t seen Chloe, 7, and Lilly, 4, since the summer. And we had to wear masks and keep a safe social distance.

My wife, Sue, and I had to do the same this time, when we watched the girls for a couple of hours while their mommy and our younger daughter, Lauren, a talented photographer who has her own business, Lauren Demolaize Photography (, was out on a photo shoot.

The fun, frolic and potential cardiac issues included:

Running around the backyard in a spirited and nearly debilitating game of tag.

Playing catch with a rubber ball.

Playing catch with a plastic ball.

Kicking a soccer ball.

Chasing and popping bubbles as they floated through the air.

Writhing spasmodically in a failed effort to keep a hula hoop going for more than three seconds at a time.

Pushing Lilly on a swing, running around to stand in front of her and dashing back to push her again when she said she wasn’t going high enough.

Falling to the ground and pretending to be knocked unconscious by Chloe’s high-kick swinging.
Sprinting next to the girls as they zoomed down the slide, which they did, one after the other, about a dozen times.

Throwing each girl into the air and catching her while trying not to rupture a vital organ.

And, what we boomers call the sport of kinks, playing horsey, a game in which yours truly was the horse (instead of my usual role as the back end of one). I got down on my hands and knees while both girls jumped on my back and exhorted me to giddyup, which I did, slowly and pathetically, uphill and downhill, until I collapsed in a heap, after which the girls wanted me to give them another ride. As my entire skeletal structure started to crumble, I wondered: They shoot horses, don’t they?

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, we had a blast. Unbounded exuberance and the narrow avoidance of hospitalization are what happens when grandparents and their grandchildren finally get together after weeks of being separated.

Since we all wore masks and were outside, Sue and I were able to get closer to the girls than we would if we were in the house, but we still had to be careful. The granddaughter tosses and the horsey rides were done while we faced away from each other.

Nonetheless, Chloe and Lilly could run an open-air health club. And I, a hip grandfather hoping not to be a broken-hip grandfather, or even a hip-replacement grandfather, could be their first, best and most ancient customer.

“You’re fun, Poppie!” Chloe said as I gasped for air after one of our strenuous exercises.

“Even though you’re old!” Lilly added helpfully.

After Lauren returned, Sue and I drove home, where we wolfed down dinner and watched a movie, during which I nodded off so often that I must have looked like a bobblehead doll.

“You got quite a workout today,” Sue said as she turned off the TV and we headed up to bed.

“At least you didn’t have to call 911,” I noted.

“It was like being at the gym,” Sue said.

“I hope it’s not another several months before I can join,” I replied. “And when I do, the girls can push me on a swing and give me a senior citizen discount.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows Best, Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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