A Bowling Grandma Steps Up to the Line

The University of Arizona is a land-grant college.  At the time I enrolled, 1962, incoming freshmen were required to take four semesters of Phys. Ed.   This was decades before my late-breaking interest in physical fitness.  Due to vision and coordination problems, sports participation had always been the bane of my existence, so I was not exactly thrilled at the prospect.

Since I was afraid of water and had never learned to swim, I decided to kill two birds with one stone by signing up for beginning swimming.  At the end of the first semester, I still couldn’t fulfill the final requirement of making it from the deep end to the shallow end.  At that point, Ms. Knopf, my instructor, took me aside and gave me a talking to.  She said she’d give me a passing grade in beginning swimming on the condition that I sign up to take the class again the next semester.  We both kept our parts of that bargain, and at the end of my second semester in beginning swimming I could pass the deep end to shallow end test.  Do I love swimming to this day?  No, but at least I know I won’t drown.

I grew up watching Robin Hood on TV, so for my third PE venture, I signed up for archery.  Try as I might, I was forever whacking my left arm when I let go of the string, so that semester was spent with the inside of my arm black and blue from wrist to elbow.

For PE semester number four, I chose bowling.  I had bowled some with the Girl Scouts at the Rec Center in Bisbee.  How hard could it be?  Turns out it was hard.  The instructor failed to realize that some of her students, and one in particular, knew absolutely nothing about bowling—including how to properly grip the ball.  I did so with my thumb and the next two fingers over which is … well … wrong.  And the instructor never noticed.  On the day of the final exam, she did go so far as to say I had a “very unusual delivery,” without realizing why, which, in my book, counts as a teacher failure as opposed to a student failure.  Once that semester ended, I didn’t set foot in a bowling alley for decades.

Having seen the title of this post, you may be asking yourself, “What changed?” In addition to getting her steps, is J.A. Jance now well on her way to becoming a championship bowler?  NO!  What changed is, I became the grandma of a boy who loves bowling.

Colt’s father, Jon, spent the last nine years of his life battling malignant melanoma, so I thought it was especially smart of my daughter to find a sport Colt loves which doesn’t require sunscreen.  He started out in a neighborhood league at Tech City Bowl three or four years ago, and took to bowling like a duck to water.  He’s twelve now and has bowled his way towards more than $1000 in college scholarship money by participating in tournaments.

But to BOWL in tournaments, he has to GO to tournaments, and one of those happened to be at Kenmore Lanes during the first week of Christmas break, while Colt was out of school and his mom was at work.  So at ten o’clock in the morning on Thursday, Grandma stepped into the breach.  We had dinner plans for later that evening, but my daughter assured me that the tournament would be over by four.

Colt’s job was to bowl.  Mine was to keep the pin sheets so we could show them to his coach later.  The problem is, Kenmore Lanes is a bowling alley which doesn’t electronically show which pins are left standing.  More often than not, Colt would have to come away from the approach to change what I’d written.  As for keeping score?  Forget about it.  The idea that you can’t fill in one frame until several frames later continues to be a bit of a mystery to me.  Some of the more experienced bowling moms tried to give me an assist in that regard, but math has never been my thing.  That’s one of the reasons I’m a writer.  I’m almost as good at Arithmetic as I am at … well … swimming, bowling, or archery.

Colt did well in the first frame and then dropped down some, but he did well enough in the first five games to make the first cut.  In the second, he smoothed out, without making the highest scores but with good consistency—enough so that he made the second cut at # 9 out of 9.  In the first of the semi-final games, he scored eight strikes!!! and came in with a 247.  Adding in his 50 pin handicap gave him a score of 297 that was within spitting distance of a perfect 300.  And it was also good enough to put him into the finals against two other bowlers, 8 year-old Leilani, who went into the finals at number one, and at number 2, Alejandro, who is at least a year or two older than Colt.

As you can see from the photo, by the time the last frame was over, at five to five, Colt was number one.  We made it to dinner on time just barely, with Colt still wearing his ear-to-ear grin, but he’d better watch his back.  Leilani is only eight.  She’s coming for him, and I’m pretty sure she knows how to keep score.