has been a large part of my life for more than 40 years. It has brought me accolades, trophies, tournament records, perfect 300 games, gold medals, TV appearances, and countless bowling friends along the way. I have bowled in tournaments across the country from California to New York, from Illinois to Florida.
But last night I had to say goodbye to a dream.
I started having back problems many years ago and suffered a back injury in 1995 while in law enforcement. That was aggravated over time and caused me to drop out of two bowling tournaments in 2005 (the first time ever not finishing an event) and in 2006 led me to retire from my job as a deputy sheriff.
From 2005 until last year I stopped bowling because the back pain was too severe. I had received and still receive injections, use pain pills, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. Finally, in the spring of last year I again felt the urge to bowl after catching up with friends at a Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) senior (50 years old or older) tournament in Central Florida.
I was encouraged by the number of friends in the tournament who wanted me to reinstate my PBA membership and bowl in the tournament when it comes back to Central Florida this April.
With that in mind I began practicing, bought updated bowling balls, took lessons and joined joined a league last summer, continuing with the same team when the current league began last August.
At first there were many shots when back cramps hit but over time they became fewer and fewer. My confidence soared and my scores kept rising. But over the past month the cramps have returned and I can not have more injections for six months.
That's okay I told friends. Even if I finish last I still want to compete against the best this April. I worked out, watched what I ate, dropped 40 pounds and after having a terrific month of league last month, felt I was about ready. Still not at peak performance and far from the level I have been used to, but confident I might not finish last.
Then we bowled league tonight. In game two the back acted up. I had felt a tweak on Tuesday during practice but as we started tonight I felt strong. I managed to finish game two but then could barely walk during game three and almost gave up half-way through as the pain brought tears to my eyes. Since we had the game's win locked up, I continued and finished the game, ashamed at my low score.
Now, as I wait for the pain pill to kick in, I am forced to face the truth -- there is no way I can compete in more pro tournaments, bowling 30-50 games in a few day's time, when sometimes I can hardly walk, like last night.
So my dream of again being a high performing competitor has died. The goal I have worked toward for almost a year is no longer within reach. Short of surgery, which has no guaranteed positive results, there is no more I can do to be able to bowl at the level I am used to and at which I would need to be to compete.
Now I sit here, sad, disappointed and frustrated.
My eyes are again filled with tears, as much from the pain as from knowing my dream is no more.