Kids leave, and parents can finally lighten up

April 23, 2005|By ROB KASPER

WE PASSED a milestone in our household recently: We got rid of the weight set.

It is probably an exaggeration to say that into every family a weight set must fall. Some families are exempt, but usually not those with teenage boys.

We got our weight set several years ago when our two sons were in middle school.

The weights migrated, as all weights should, from somebody else's basement. In this case, the basement of origin belonged to my older brother and his wife, who live outside Boston. They were getting rid of the weights because their two boys, who were several years older than our sons, had outgrown them. I learned that when boys move out of the house, their weights are one of the first things that their parents toss from the nest.

While my kids were delighted that they were acquiring their cousins' weights, I wasn't particularly happy about loading all the apparatus - a barbell, about 150 pounds of plastic-covered weights, a bench and weight rack - into the trunk of the family sedan. But I got it done, even if the car rode pretty low during the long drive back to Baltimore.

The weight set took up residence in our basement because our two boys wanted to "get big." Many boys go through this phase. In retrospect, I see that kids are encouraged by their parents, who from an early age tell them things like "Eat your beets so you will grow up to be big and strong." My kids never would eat beets, but they did fall for the "big and strong" part of my pitch.

During the years that the guys lifted and grunted, I had limited interaction with the weights. Mainly I moved them around the basement, sometimes using a 20-pound weight to help finish off a glue job. Often I tripped over them. I even was talked into buying more weights, 35-pound dumbbells.

There was a stretch of summer vacations when we had to take the dumbbells with us to the beach. The thinking was that the weight lifters were getting in shape for football and didn't want to lose out by spending a week at the ocean with their family without some heavy iron to pump.

Somehow I, not the musclemen, would end up carrying the weights out to the car and loading them in the trunk. When we arrived at the beach house, I would lug them up to the screened-in porch. That journey up the porch steps toting dumbbells pretty much ended my workout. After that, I would sit on the porch at sunset, lift a cold beverage to my lips, and watch the kids do curls.

When the kids got older, they too outgrew the weights. The older son went to college and played rugby, where the players lift both their wounded and pints during the post-game drink-up. The younger son is playing football in college, and when he is home, scoffs at the weight set as too puny for his manly needs. Being men of the world, the guys now prefer to work out at glistening gyms, not the dark basement.

For weeks, the weights sat in the basement, untouched. That is true about a lot of items in a basement: They are in a state of repose. It is what basements are for. But recently the winds of change, a zephyr known as my wife, blew through. The basement was being reorganized. Longtime moribund residents, including the weight set, were being disposed of.

A message was sent out on a neighborhood Web site offering the weights free to anyone who would lug them away. To my amazement, we got several enthusiastic responses, the first coming from a fellow who lived a block away.

I figured the fellow would be a teenager. But when he showed up Sunday morning to carry the stuff away, I learned that he was the father of two young daughters. His plan, he said, was to work out at home rather than join a gym. I wished him well.

Then for one last time I loaded the weights in a car. This time though, the car was not mine. I watched as the rear end of the young father's station wagon, heavy with its new burden, dipped as it rolled up the alley. It was the end of an era, the weight set had been passed to a new generation, to another basement. I was pumped.

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