Operation Pull-Up

The pull up bar went in last night. I waited anxiously next to Kevin watching his every move while he finished installing the last screws in the door brackets. He finally finished, moved out of the way and I jumped on the bar. I dangled below it with both hands in the right position and...nothing. I mean NOTHING!

I honestly expected that after all of the years that have passed since the stomach-churning anxiety of the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Test, that my arm strength would have improved.

As a brief aside, Ronald Reagan was president when I was a scrawny eighth grader trying to earn that oh-so-coveted, but ridiculously meaningless blue ribbon. I could stretch far beyond my toes; I could run the 600 yard dash like the wind; I could even finish the 982 situps that were required in two timed minutes of hell. But the pull-ups, they were my nemesis. I used to feel physically ill the night before the pull-up test. I would pace and wonder if Ronald Reagan was really capable of doing 5 pull-ups on his government-issued pull-up bar at the White House. And then morning would come, I would head to the gym, jump up to the bar and it was always the same thing.

"Good try. Sorry, maybe next time. You're welcome to do the partial curl-ups."

The partial curl-ups were something that Ronald Reagan invented to embarrass the kids who couldn't do the pull-ups. You stood on a chair, lifted your chin above the bar and the teacher pulled the chair out from under you. The eighth grade version of a hangman's platform. Once the chair was gone, you were supposed to hold the curl as long as you could. No resting your chin on the bar and no dropping. As your arms got more and more weak, you would start to slip down. I remember raising my chin to the ceiling to keep it above the bar as long as possible. I would look to the heavens and pray for just nine more seconds. Ridiculous, I know - I told you I was a perfectionist.

So now here we are 21 years later, and I'm still that kid who wants to win the blue ribbon. Only this time, I'm not pulling-up in front of a cadre of pimply faced kids. I'm standing inside my coat closet (the only place that had a doorframe square enough to mount the bar), staring at the pull-up bar all by myself. And I'll be damned if I'm not going to figure out a way to get one pull-up out of the deal.

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