As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of sports in school physical education classes. Unfortunately, due to my visual impairment, I was not successful at any of them. I either fell on my face or was hit in the face with a ball. When throwing, my aim was terrible. When I was in college however, I discovered a sport I could do pretty well.
In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in my Wyoming home town. I was required to take at least two semesters of P.E. It was time for me to quit procrastinating and do it. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least athletic ability and the chance of injury was slim.
The first few days of class were humiliating. No matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done in elementary school. However, in between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me. I took comfort in the fact that at least I wasn’t getting hurt.
The instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself so I would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait for others to bowl. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane.
Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent and I began hitting more and more pins each time I bowled. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley reverberated with the cheers of my classmates.
By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved the sport and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional bowling tour on TV. I was living at home at the time.
The problem was that since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We often went as a family with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time.
AsChristmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed when I realized that the bowling class would not continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. My parents even gave me an electronic bowling game. They had realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.
Through the years, I continued to bowl. When I was studying music therapy at Montana State University in Billings, I occasionally bowled with a group of students from the residence hall where I lived. While completing a six-month music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, I often bowled with a couple of organizations for the blind and visually impaired.
When I started working at the nursing home in Sheridan after my internship, one of the activities we offered residents was bowling. We set up a makeshift alley in the recreation room, and my job was to set the pins. They had to be arranged on the floor just so, and when a resident knocked them down, I had to pick them up. I grew to appreciate the automatic pin setters at the bowling alley.
At one time during my fifteen-year stint working with seniors in nursing homes and other facilities, I got involved in a women’s bowling league. I was on one team, and we met once a week and played against other teams. This was short-lived because the team broke up after a few weeks due to lack of interest. None of the other teams in the league had an opening, so that was that.
Since then, I’ve been married and widowed and moved twice. I have no idea where my bowling ball and shoes are and don’t know if I’ll ever have an opportunity to bowl again. That doesn’t matter. I can still remember standing at the edge of the lane, my feet behind the black line, my knees bent, a bowling ball in my right hand, swinging my right arm back and forth to gain momentum, then letting fly as my arm swung forward, watching the ball roll away, out of my line of vision, and hearing the satisfying clatter of pins being knocked down.
Note: A slightly different version of the above was published years ago in an anthology of Christmas stories written by authors with disabilities. After reading Mike Staton’s post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, I was inspired to rewrite and post it here.
How about you? What sport, if any, were you good at when you were a kid? Did your parents take your interest in this sport seriously, buying clothes and equipment you needed in order to participate, driving you to and from practice, even practicing with you? Please share your memories, either in the comment field below or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to reading about your sporting adventures.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
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