John Boston | ‘OOF…!!’ That Cursed Word Kids Never Say 

John Boston

There’s one thing to this day that I never cared about regarding my father. He lived to be just about 90 and, in all those years, he never once used the word, “OOF.” Which rhymes with “Poof” and “Woof.” The latter is dog talk. But, still. 

Dad was a darn specimen. Even in his last years, he chopped wood, hiked for miles and his heart rate was “3.” 

“Boomp …” Wait 20 seconds. “Boomp …” Wait 20 seconds. Nothing. Dad would lightly sock his chest. Another, “Boomp …” 

You do the math. If I’m halfway to Middle Age, I’m going to live to be 148, which will be in the year 2098, and the Detroit Lions will STILL not have won a Super Bowl. I have simply GOT to get back in shape. Why? For no other reason, my sweet and benign Old Man is peeking over a cloud’s edge right now, staring down at me and shaking his head in Old Testament disapproval. 

“Son,” he says, in his Charlton Heston Get Out Of Bed We’ve Got To Walk Across Egypt voice. 

I’ve noticed recently that the word, “OOF,” slips from me, more and more. “OOF” is not a fairy tale curse from a bumbling giant. It’s just that it’s getting harder and harder to get up from couch, office chair or fetching Scandinavian stewardess. Whom am I kidding? There are no Scandinavian — Holy Mamma Mia Knuckle-biting and Fetching WOMEN Scandinavian Flight Attendants — in my life nor on my lap. 

I have not, the energy. 

See? The previous? A simple five-word sentence and I’m so pooped I have to place a comma between the “not” and the “the.” Pitiful. 

When I climb out of bed lately, my lower back is so tight, I have to use my face to get off the mattress. Face contorted, I twist and groan to fall OUT of bed to my knees and say with gritted teeth, the day’s first contrite prayer: 

“GOD!!!! What do you — WANT — from me???!!!” 

I’m thinking of installing a network of metal monkey bars or Scandinavian airline beverage-serving gal or a simple rope bridge over my bed — anything I can grab onto and pull me into morning without blurting: “OOF…” 

Sometimes, I go the other way. I bring knees to chin, rock a little, then violently shoot my feet out to spring forward and vertical. Last week? Three times I went airborne and almost went through a window. 

I’m not making up the following. When I was a kid, I’d sometimes sleep high atop a tall tree. I could see from
Newhall to Nebraska, with the wind gently rocking me to sleep. I’d wake, completely refreshed, then scamper down the tree like a happy monkey. Not once did I need to gasp, “OOF …” Didn’t have to grab my lower back, grimace like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, stare at a nearby marble gargoyle (my sleeping quarters are filled with them), drool, then ask: “Why were I not made of stone like thee …?” 

Some mornings, I wake and there’s a half-dozen Apaches surrounding me, furiously jotting notes. I’m guessing they’re researching more painful torture techniques for their prisoners. I now say, “OOF …” entering and exiting the car. Or climbing stairs. All the kindly forest spirits combined would gasp should I drop my cellphone. The unkindly forest spirits? They’re laughing, holding their lower backs and pretend crying. 

When it gets a few galaxies past intolerable, I swallow a few pounds of Tylenol and wrap around me not one, but two, back braces. These orthopedic supports are so formidable, they can stop a spear. I can’t hide them under my shirt nor tuck them in my pants because they’re 48 inches thick so I have to wear them on the outside of my shirt and pants, then drape a trench coat to hide the bulge. Being trussed up so, I walk like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. Security guards shoot at me when I stroll past an elementary school. 

And still. With every step, I must repeat: “OOF,” “OOF,” “OOF.” 

I probably should see a chiropractor. Or, an exorcist. Either way, they’d both just dim the lights, light some candles, wave a dead squirrel and some bananas over my head and speak in pretend-Latin. 

“That’ll be $1,500,” they say at the end of the session. “Would you like to make another appointment?” to which I reply, in halting gasps: “Can’t… feel… my… feet…” followed by a hearty “OOF” as I try to swing off the table. 

Sigh. Perhaps soon, Artificial Intelligence can find a way to vacuum out my dear memories, alleged wit and chronic habits of stupidity, hit the exhaust button and blow them into a robot who looks like a brunette Thor. 

A Thor where the word, “OOF,” has been surgically removed. 

What happened to that handsome fellow with the thick mop of wavy hair, the guy who could laconically stand under a basketball rim 10 feet high, then effortlessly elevate to grab the hoop with both hands and just — dangle

Where did that young chap go, who, even in his late 60s, could carry a refrigerator under one arm and a pool table in the other and take the stairs two at a time? 

Who was that immortal, can-do young fellow who’d jump horses over 6-foot steeples? Now, atop a fine mount and when my war stallion gets the idea to canter, I hysterically sob as we bounce, “please don’t please don’t please don’t please don’t please don’t …” 

I used to be able to perform all these young man stunts without so much as uttering a single, pain-filled … 

Oh, Heavens and dear me Foof. 

What’s that word for which I’m searching …? 

John Boston has more than 100 major writing awards. Here. He’s going to reach over, grab one and show it to you. “Oof …” Never mind. Do visit his bookstore at Search for his best-seller: “101 Ways For The Chronically Crimped Up To Relieve Back Pain.” You won’t find it, BUT, buy something else. If you buy one more than 300 pages, careful lifting it up. “Oof …”

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