Archive for the 'friends' Category

Robert

I’m in my fourth year at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club where I pay a monthly fee to use the facilities and, as a bonus, ogle the attractive women who make the visit much more enjoyable.

I joined the club after Ila died and have been a faithful member through the pandemic. Some Covid-mindful people thought I was foolishly risking my health by sharing the club’s air with others who were also deemed crazy. They were probably right.

Until I moved from the Upper Ojai in 2019, I’d get in my car at 6am, five days a week and drive eight twisting miles from the house on the hill to the club on Fox Street. Since becoming an urban Townie, I often walk a mile to the club in about twenty minutes.

Early on, Jackie told me I should get a personal trainer, someone who could show me how to improve my physical condition without doing permanent damage to my 80-year-old body.

And so, I met Robert.

A slender, physically fit specimen that I hoped to emulate one day, Robert trained the unfit, conducted yoga classes, led hikes, and spent lots of time schmoozing with everyone at the club. He knew their names, their kids’ names, and their dogs’ names. Everyone waved at Robert, and he took the time to wave back. My thirty-minute, twice weekly sessions shrank to twenty because of his constant socializing. He often was late, and I was often irritated. But he was a star, and I basked in it.

We started our training (I’m not sure why it’s called training…maybe because it’s like taking your dog to obedience class). Robert inventoried my body parts, found them all in their proper places, and measured my stamina. He entered the information on an official looking form and promised that we would periodically re-evaluate my condition to determine the level of my improvement or lack thereof. He said he would record the new data and compare it to the old data. I never saw the form again in our nearly three-year relationship.

I tried to focus on the physical stuff during our sessions but was often drawn into conversations with Robert about the news, books, and our past lives. I shared personal stuff with him, including dreams that your analyst would find interesting. And that, I finally realized, was as much a part of his standard routine as was the proper use of the club’s equipment.

We were comfortable in our deepening rut. But then he began to talk about his own health. His annual physical had shown some troubling signs. He didn’t complain; over the weeks it was more like a slow-motion description of progressive decline. 

His liver had been invaded; he was referred to UCLA, a place where you should only go when you have a condition that defies medical science.

Treatments began. Reports given by him during our sessions were promising. The bad guys were on the run.

Or so it seemed. The invaders had migrated to his head, wreaking new havoc.

Robert was a lot younger than me. These things, I thought, were supposed to afflict guys my age, not his.

And then, the unthinkable. He gave up his position at the club to devote full time to his illness. Selfishly, I wondered what I would do without a trainer.

Robert suggested I try someone else. So, I worked with a new guy for a few months, and then he left. I thought I’d try it without a trainer. I figured I’d just follow the last routine I learned from the new guy. But I found myself taking short cuts. I went to the club less frequently. I was sure I was slowly getting out of shape. I was bored.

Yesterday, Jackie suggested that I try a third trainer. I listened, like I always do, but said nothing, packed up my stuff and went to the club. I did my usual routine but found little pleasure in it. I showered and wandered by the front desk on my way out. I had decided to take one of the other trainers’ business cards that adorn the counter. But I hesitated, feeling like a deserter. I figured I’d get one next time.

I went home, made some oatmeal, and sat down at the computer. I thought about Robert and realized I hadn’t heard from him for a few weeks. We often text and occasionally speak on the phone. I sent a text…You’ve been quiet. What’s happening, bro?

Waiting for a return text, I roused my paranoia to its full height. I wondered if he’d had a relapse, a reoccurrence, a new invasion by the bad guys. I figured he’d respond when he could. Meanwhile, I’d worry.

And then, five minutes later, the phone rang. A voice much stronger than I remembered said, “I’m going for a haircut. I plan to start working part-time in April. Let’s get together next week and talk about training.”

I’ll have to remember to build in some time for his schmoozing.


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