When Blaine and I first met, he was attending the University of Oklahoma and was a cadet in their ROTC program. My dad served four years in the service, but that was before I was born and he never really talked about it, so I was unfamiliar with the military or anything that went along with it. I asked Blaine what made him want to join the Air Force, and he said it's just what he'd always wanted to do. He was one of those obnoxious people who always knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and how to make it happen -- in his case, an Air Force officer. I asked, "If you weren't joining the Air Force, what would you do?" And he replied, "Join the Navy; they'd be my second choice." So I asked the obvious, "The Navy? What for? You hate to get water up your nose. Why not the Army? Or the Marines?"
To which Blaine gave the respectful and considerate reply: "Are you out of your fucking mind? Have you seen how much those guys have to work out, and what kind of physical shape they have to be in? No thanks!!"
Now, that's not to say the Air Force and Navy guys are slackers -- they're not. They have physical fitness requirements and timed runs and weight restrictions, just like all the branches of service. And prior to getting cancer, Blaine was in great shape, working out at least three or four times a week. It's just that, well, he's got a point. Those dudes in the Army and Marines? While I'm sure it's not 100 percent true (surely they have some members on the Fat Boy Plan, as well?) for the most part, those guys are in some serious shape. It's like Blaine explained to me, all military servicemen and women have important jobs, it's just that their jobs (meaning Army and Marines) are often more physically demanding in nature, and they HAVE to be in good shape.
Nowhere has it ever been more obvious to me that there is a difference in the way the Air Force and the Army approach their physical fitness regimes than the many times we have been here at Ft. Gordon. Normally we are entrenched in the Air Force lifestyle but here, we are in a hospital on an Army base, and I can drive nowhere on the base, at any time of the day or night, without witnessing group physical training and exercises of some kind, some place. First thing in the morning, squadrons of men and women are running in formation, shouting along in cadence. Entire platoons jogging around the base with heavy rucksacks on their backs. Today, the base emergency departments were out on a soccer field, doing calisthenics together, the fire trucks and police cars parked around the perimeter of the field. Everywhere I turn I see active duty Army people in work out uniforms .... black shorts and gray t-shirts with ARMY emblazoned across the chest. It's a young, healthy, virile community --- and they make me feel fat and old.
This morning, I had gone into the PX (Post Exchange, which sounds funny to me because we call it a BX for Base Exchange .... whatever) to pick up a few things before heading over to the hospital. I was standing in line, and these two girls walked past. Two young, pretty, active-duty Army girls. Both in their work out gear, with their fresh faces, hair in ponytails, All-American beauty just oozing out of their pores.
I watched them walk past, and felt discouraged. Look at them, with their great figures and youthful energy ... and then look at .... me. Ugh.
I looked at their flat stomachs and thought, "I can't compete with that. I've birthed six babies, for heaven's sake, six LITTLE PEOPLE have taken up temporary residence in my mid-section at one time or another. My stomach will never be that flat again, short of surgical intervention."
Then I looked at their perky breasts and thought, "I'll never have that again. I've nursed babies and had breasts pumps hooked up to me and in between the babies and machines, all the perkiness has been plum taken out of mine. I've got East-West Breasts now --- meaning when I lie on my back, they go east and west."
Then I looked at their legs, tanned and strong and muscular, extending down from their exercise shorts and thought, "My legs will never look like that again. Hell, they didn't look like that when I was young, let alone now, with this cellulite and saddlebags and varicose veins running all down the back."
And I stood there for a minute and thought, "Damn. Damn, getting old sucks. How can I compete against age and gravity and metabolism and pregnancy and childbirth? I have the body of a 40-yr old woman, and its depressing."
But the longer I stood there, the more I got to thinking --- "OK, yeah, so I have the body of a 40-yr old woman ... it's a body that has done some amazing things, like having babies and nurturing them, and I'm still getting around pretty darn good, if I just stop and think about it. I mean, it's not like I need a cane, or have to buy two airplane seats. You know, why am I giving myself grief? Those girls, with their narrow waists and tight butts and flat stomachs ... why should I feel bad that I'm not in as good a shape? I'm probably 20 years older than they are ---- I am NOT going to feel bad about the effects that Mother Nature has had on my body, especially when age and genetics catches up to everyone at some point -- it's totally not my fault!"
Then, had to be honest with myself, and acknowledge I was having this mental conversation while standing in line for Cinnabon. And that the last time I attended an aerobics class, Kendrie was still in diapers.
Hmmmm, maybe age and genetics aren't the only factor.
Wonder if it's too late to join the Army? I hear they've got a kick-ass physical fitness program.