Saturday, October 25, 2014


I saw a reflection of myself as I walked up to this huge glass door the other day and I was shockingly reminded of just how bent over I had become in these latter years.  The combination of cervical fusions and an arthritic backbone have become formidable obstacles to standing ramrod straight - a characteristic for which I was regionally famous in my younger days.

I can still remember standing straight in stocking feet as my mother penciled in a mark on the door jamb in the kitchen of my escalating growth record for "all time", as it was commonly noted.  Well, that door jamb is long gone as is the house in which it stood.  For that matter so is the neighborhood, which is only a fixture of memory for those few of us who remain.

I always wanted to be at least six feet tall.  Alas, such a dream was never realized.  As we all know, close only counts in horseshoes.  I got close, but I'm no horseshoe.  Five eleven and some in my prime.  You got it - even as an adult, I continued the measuring game just in case I made the jump to that hoped for goal.  I'd measure in the morning, when, as I was told you are tallest.  Standing up and walking around all day tended to compress the joints in the back enough to shorten the total length of the body.  At least that was what those who should know were saying.

One day when I was into my middle years, several colleagues and I were sitting around in my office and, though I can not recall the reason, we decided to measure our hight.  First we all had to guess our own hight.  I, of course proudly stated my stature at five feet, eleven and a half.  As this was late afternoon, I confidently mentioned that if this were early in the day I am sure I would be a full six feet.  After the laughter subsided, the measuring began.  Everybody was spot on in their guesses except for me.  I came in, after decades of daily running and standing around, at five ten and a half.  A whole inch!!!  In a rare moment of candor, I have to admit that that number was probably right all along.  Sloppy measuring had been boosting my ego all these years, and I'm not sorry.  My ego, fragile as it is, has always needed all the help it could get.  Please, those of you who may have another opinion about my ego, just keep the hell out of this - OK?

Then there was the glass door reflection episode.  That's when I realized that ego, though an important part of one's personality, is not a substitute for reality.  In reality I can not stand ramrod straight, and that's just one of a number of things I can't do very well, if at all, any more.  So I suppose that makes me at best a reluctant realist.

So, nowadays, my actual measurement is a paltry five feet ten.  It sounds so mundane, so common, so uninspiring. There must be tens of millions of others - men and women - that tall and more.  Then I discovered after some casual research, that my little five feet ten translated into 1.04477612 Smoots.  Rather technical sounding, don't you think?  (It's the actual hight of a short MIT freshman who was laid end to end to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge)  Now that's a number I can be proud of.  Well, maybe proud is not the best word for it, but it's definitely different.  I just like the sound of it.  Just thinking of it, I seem to be standing a bit taller.  Hello EGO, come to Papa?

I'm Jerry Henderson

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