My best friend’s dad, Cliff, is the stuff of which legends are made. A gentle teddy-bear of a man, he is always ready with a corny joke, a goofy smile, a groan-worthy pun, and a big laugh. Having lost my dad at a young age, he has been my go-to source for fatherly love and a grandfather to my kids.
Topping our family’s most cherished memories are those of summer days when our two families would gather for cookouts, fireworks and general shenanigans. With a total of 5 boys, all close in age, the kids would find endless sources of mischief and fun.
It was one such summer night when “The Bounce” transpired. We’d gathered together to cook out and enjoy a lazy summer evening. While the “grown-ups” grilled, gabbed and grabbed appetizers, the kids played a rough and tumble game of King of the Mountain on the trampoline. At some point, Cliff decided that HE should be the King of the Mountain. Up he climbed on the trampoline. The boys respectfully backed off a bit, which for some reason seemed to make him all the more brazen. Cliff was not going to be shown up by a bunch of teens!
Up, down, higher up, harder down he jumped. He laughingly taunted the boys until they began jumping again as well. Up, down, higher, harder….until the boys decided to do the most epic group jump ever….sending Cliff soaring high into the Ohio evening sky.
Like an old Looney Toons’ episode, in ultra-slow motion, Cliff went rocketing into the air and then slowly, slowly, slowly….SLAMMED right onto the ground.
Now, here is a point where eye-witness accounts vary. Some say he landed on his rear, others on his front. Some say they gasped and rushed to help, when we really remember them laughing. The one point that no one disputes, however, is the THE BOUNCE.
Not the movement that sent him flying off the trampoline, but way he immediately bounced right up onto his feet, as if nailing a perfect 10.0 landing at the Olympics!
The Man, The Myth, The Legend seemed to spring effortlessly to his feet, laughing hysterically, brushing himself off and looking around for approval.
We’ve all had that horrible moment where we simultaneously laugh and gasp, knowing that this can very quickly either go into the land of hilarity or hurt. Cliff was our guide into hilarity.
That bounce, that image of him flying through the air, hitting hard, and seemingly offhandedly rising to his feet has been retold at virtually every family/friend reunion since. It was well over a decade before he ever let on he was so sore for the next two weeks he could barely move. All we knew was that he was our hero, our superman, our guy with the epic bounce back.
Life does that, you know. We are playing joyfully one moment, and the next we are crashing toward the ground. Unforeseen events such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a pandemic, the end of a relationship shift our life so slightly or so suddenly that the fall is all we feel. Falling, crashing, hard landing ahead.
Those events come. There is no stopping them, those things that knock us flat on our butts. They come suddenly, secretively, without a moment’s notice. There is nothing we can do to prevent them from converging. It is human existence to experience falls.
But it is also the human experience to rise. To rise mightily, powerfully, even joyfully. To jump up, to ascend, to brush off and to say to ourselves…whew…THAT was a thing!
And like Cliff, the fall often leaves us a little breathless and bruised, but also like our story’s hero, it’s the bounce that will leave us triumphant.
Every family has their lore…their stories that are etched in memory and relived at the mere mention of a person or place.
For ours, it’s centered around the most spectacular re-footing of all time: Our adored Cliff and his showing us that it’s the rebound that is remembered most!