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Poppie’s back story

A little while back, I had a bad back. It was one of the few times that otherwise helpful people didn’t say to me, “I have your back.” And no wonder. Who’d want it?

The garbageman didn’t. I threw my back out, but he wouldn’t take it.

In fact, that’s how I got a bad back. The garbageman had just taken away everything in the garbage bin, which was light and empty, just like my head. I was bringing the bin back to the backyard, which is not a bad backyard because I don’t have to take care of it, though if I did, the backyard would no doubt give me a bad back.

But back to my story. I was carrying the bin back when I felt a sudden pain in my back. It was as if somebody (the garbageman, perhaps) had jammed a hot fireplace poker into it.

That wasn’t the case, of course, because I don’t have a fireplace and I don’t play poker.

Still, as I limped painfully back to the house, it brought me back to the two other times I have had a bad back.

The first time was when I was carrying an air conditioner down a flight of stairs. That I wrenched my back was understandable because the typical air conditioner weighs about as much as a baby grand piano. Or, if you are not musically inclined, a dead body, which might as well have been mine.

The second time was not so understandable because I was bending down to get dishwashing liquid under the kitchen sink when a bolt of lightning coursed down my spine, preventing me from straightening up and making me the human equivalent of an isosceles triangle, an unfortunate comparison since I flunked high school geometry.

Every time I have had a bad back, I have talked with people who either have had a bad back themselves or have known other people who have had a bad back and have contradictory suggestions for treating it.

They are: exercise, relaxation, cold and/or heat. My favorite suggestion was to let somebody walk on my back. Unfortunately, I don’t know Heidi Klum and would probably get stuck with Chris Christie.

Until this most recent flare-up, I thought the two best things for a bad back were rest and beer. But now I have an even better answer: grandchildren.

Recently, my granddaughters, Chloe, 4, and Lilly, 7 months, spent the weekend with me and my wife, Sue, who has a great back. Frequently, however, she has a pain in the area directly south of it, a condition she attributes to yours truly. Only wine can help.

This time, Chloe and Lilly helped me. When they arrived, Chloe wanted me to pick her up so she could give me a kiss. She weighs 36 pounds, not an extraordinary amount for someone who has built up his muscles by doing 12-ounce curls. But when that weight is moving in all directions while being held in your arms, it adds several long tons of pressure to an already sore back.

Miraculously, I didn’t collapse. Chloe kissed me and said, “I love you, Poppie!” Suddenly, I felt a lot better.

Then I picked up Lilly, who weighs 14 pounds, and kissed her. She cooed. I carried her around the house for a while, which helped me work the knots (sheepshank, not sailor’s) out of my back.

For the next two days, I bent down to play with Lilly while she was in her bouncy seat, played hide-and-seek with Chloe, held Lilly to give her a bottle, lifted Chloe onto my lap so I could read to her, sprawled on the floor during tummy time with Lilly, and otherwise had a ball with the girls.

By the end of the weekend, I was cured. To stay that way, I will soon see my 2-month-old, 12-pound grandson, Xavier, whom I will carry around to keep in shape.

When it comes to feeling good, my grandkids have my back.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Reflections of Erma