Last Word: Badminton Elbow

Several years ago, my husband took our kids bowling as one of those last-resort activities that parents do when all other possibilities, including miniature golf, indoor playscapes and dropping them off at someone else’s house, have been exhausted.

A day or two after their high-octane evening of gutter balls and fashionable footwear, I noticed my husband rubbing his arm and taking Advil.

When I asked him what was wrong, he sheepishly replied that somehow he’d managed to injure his arm while bowling.

“Let me get this straight,” I said, “are you telling me that you have some kind of bowling injury? Bowling?”

Bowling.

To be honest, according to a handful of friends and most immediate family members, compassion isn’t exactly one of my super powers. I’ve been known to respond “suck it up” regardless of what the thermometer says, where the blisters are, or how many Band-Aids someone has bled through.

Once, when my husband and I were skiing, he hit a patch of ice and without any warning whatsoever, became a human snowball, rolling end to end in a blur of poles and waterproof gloves, before skidding to a stop.

After ensuring that his injuries were limited to minor head trauma and a torn ACL, I broke out my cell phone and took pictures of the paramedics attending to him, before snapping a few more in the emergency room in case he wanted to create a keepsake photo book or coffee mug of our day on the slopes.

So, considering this current injury was the result of a missed spare or using poor form attempting to make the split, my corresponding sympathy was relatively low.

Every time he grimaced while lifting anything or it appeared like he was suffering, I made sure I acknowledged it with some sort of snide comment and general mockery.

When a couple of months passed with no improvement, he broke down and went to the doctor.

Though I wasn’t there, I like to imagine how the visit went. I can only assume they talked in bowling lingo, using terms like, “approach,” and “follow through” when discussing his arm, and, instead of notes, the doctor probably just wrote a bunch of “Xs” and shaded triangles for reference in his medical chart.

Regardless, my husband came home with a tennis (bowling) elbow diagnosis and orders to wear a sort of weird, black band.

Doubtful that a 2-inch strip of polyester, Velcroed around his arm, was anything more than a sympathy ploy — let alone a cure for whatever he’d done — I went to work.

“Are you in mourning,” I would ask when he wore it, “or is that what everyone’s wearing at the office these days?”

It took some effort, but eventually my band shaming paid off, he stopped wearing it, and there was no further discussion of the bowling injury after that.

He must have recovered, even though his professional bowling career was clearly over, and I forgot all about it.

At least until one day last spring, when during a fierce, sweaty, Nike-commercial, game of backyard badminton, I felt something go painfully awry in my arm.

Since it was still my serve, I obviously continued playing, but after a couple more flicks, it was apparent that something was really wrong.

Embarrassed to admit that I’d somehow suffered a catastrophic arm injury while volleying a large pencil eraser over a net, I mumbled, “I think I pulled a muscle,” and quit.

For days I was in agony. From my elbow to my fingers, pain.

Through it, however, I came to understand the meaning of real hardship. I struggled to depress the spout of my hair mousse, I had to carry my purse on the other arm and texting took a whole lot longer than usual.

Even so, I refused to go to the doctor. What would I say, that I did it when I was going in for the spike? That it happened while executing a less-than-perfect birdie return?

It’s been nearly a year. I’m not any better. And I still haven’t gone to the doctor.

I’m pretty sure I know what he’ll say. He’ll diagnose me with badminton elbow and send me home with a black, polyester band, which given my history, I cannot wear, at least not while my husband’s home.

In the meantime, I’m trying to make the best of it. There’s always Advil and I’ve switched over to hair gel. I also put our badminton set behind some boxes in the basement. With any luck, no one will ever find it.

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