By Jerry Zezima
I am all wet, even during droughts, which is why I am sorry that the Summer Olympics don’t have a Slip ’N Slide competition.
If they did, I’d be the favorite to bring home the gold for my dazzling performance on the watery plastic sheet, which recently impressed my granddaughters so much that they gave me perfect scores, after which I had to recuperate with a cold beer, the drink of champions.
I trained for this high-stakes event — which wasn’t televised but did stream, so to speak, on a cellphone — with Chloe, 8, and Lilly, 4 and a half, superior athletes who humiliated me in other water-related competitions.
One was the Super Soaker, which required me to lumber across the backyard to their inflatable pool, jump in without spraining an ankle or rupturing a vital organ, grab a pressurized water gun and engage in a marksmanship battle with the girls, who hit the bull’s-eye (me) so often that I looked like I had been through a monsoon.
Another was 1-2-3 Sunshine, a game in which I had to sneak up on either Chloe or Lilly (or both) before they turned around and sprayed me with a hose. I was disqualified every time. I just stood there, utterly defeated, as water poured off me like Niagara Falls.
The only contest at which I excelled — though not without injury — was on the Slip ’N Slide, which stretched 15 feet on a slight downward slope and was kept constantly slippery by water that sprinkled out of one side, providing a steady shower through which I thumped, bumped and slid, sometimes out of control and often with painful results.
The girls had already shown fine form in this challenging event, though Lilly went about two feet on her stomach before deciding that sliding on her knees was the better option. She got the hang of it after a couple of tries.
Chloe did the knee slide about halfway down on her initial run before covering the entire course the next time.
Then it was my turn.
“Come on, Poppie!” Chloe exhorted.
“You can do it!” shouted Lilly.
I was understandably nervous as I imagined that I was in the Olympic spotlight, TV cameras trained on my flabby physique while the announcers wondered how, at 67, I had ever made the U.S. team and whether the gold medal, if I actually won, would have to be presented to me in a hospital.
The rules, according to the girls, stated that I had to slide on my stomach, not my knees. This entailed getting a running start and flopping down on my belly, which made me worry that I would miscalculate the landing and end up sounding like a mezzo-soprano.
My worries washed away as I executed a perfect flop and slid flawlessly down the narrow strip to the finish line in what must have been world record time.
“Awesome!” Chloe exclaimed.
“Yeah!” Lilly chimed in.
My wife, Sue, and our daughter Lauren, the girls’ mommy, witnessed my performance from a nearby table, where they were sipping wine and hoping they wouldn’t have to perform CPR.
“Go again, Poppie!” Chloe urged.
I outdid myself with an even better run. I went several more times, whooshing my way to athletic glory.
I must admit that I suffered plastic burns on my stomach and knees. But, like the champ I am, I shook it off and celebrated with a beer.
“How did I do?” I asked the girls, telling them to rate me on a scale of 1 to 10.
“You got a 10!” Chloe said, giving me the thumbs-up.
“I give you 189,” Lilly added. “Plus 50.”
No offense to U.S. swim team stars Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel, but even they couldn’t have beaten me had the Olympic committee seen fit to add Slip ’N Slide to this year’s competition.
But that, as Chloe and Lilly might say, is water under the grandfather.
Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima