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.

14 thoughts on “A Bowling Grandma Steps Up to the Line

  1. At my college swimming proficiency was required. All freshmen had to pass or take swimming for P.E. We were required to take 6 senesters of P.E., and we could take 2 P.E. courses per semester. At that time we didn’t pay by the course, but a flat fee for the semester up to 18 credits. I took 2 P.E. courses most semesters, bowling always being one. The teacher usually did nothing but assign someone to be secretary who usually just took attendance. The teacher might also show total newcomers how to bowl. One semester we had a guy from Botswana who had never bowled. I ended up doing most of the teaching him.

    Congrats to Cole. 247 is a great score!

  2. We have some common college experience. At the University of Evansville I also took a beginner swimming class. I could swim enough to save my life, barely. Our class ending test was to dive/jump off the highest dive platform. Mortified, I jumped, earning my A. Another PE credit wad earned with a beginning archery class. I enjoyed that so well, I earned another credit with an advanced archery class. Am I an advanced archer…NO. That was some 50 years ago. And the archery our 10 year old granddaughter participates in is a different game entirely. But I sp enjoy watching her.
    Can’t wait for Duel To The Death.

  3. William and Mary also required me to take “physical education”. My “sports” were modern dance (I had taken ballet as a kid but was terrible), swimming, tennis (I couldn’t hit the ball because of the same hand eye coordination problems you talk about–lasik surgery in 1997 took me from 20/2500 to 20/25 and the world became a different place), and “bowling”! I’m still not “athletic” but I try to walk regularly. None of the other activities stuck

  4. I am also very uncoordinated. Managed to sprain my ankle trying to hit a baseball in Jr. high and pulled a groin muscle when I went bowling with my dad and that was when I was an adult. Math, the basics, just barely. Walk and chew gum at the same time, maybe? I have great respect for coordinated people, maybe even jealous.
    GO COLT!

  5. Luther College in Iowa required us to take at least two semesters of physical education. One thing we learned was square dancing which I thought was funny for a college subject. There was no pool so no swimming. I never did learn how to do it.

    My first experience at bowling was embarrassing and it was a long time before I tried it again. I copied what I had seen others doing, but when I swung the ball behind me I dropped it. Duh

  6. At the high school where I went (1960-1963), students were required to take swimming at least one semester in the three years we were there. I got out of that by skipping it in 10th and 11th grade and then being a co-op student in the 12th grade which meant that I went to school in the morning and worked at a real job in the afternoons, leaving no time for phys ed. I still can’t swim but I can float. I’m afraid to go in boats, and especially canoes, because I’m afraid I’ll drown if the boat turns over.

  7. When I started PE was also a requirement. I took fencing – mostly because of the “Adventures of Robin Hood” on TV. The Richard Greene series had been in reruns when I was in junior high. I still love to watch the dvds. Glad you found something to enjoy with your grandson.

  8. Loved this story……….all of it. Congrats to Cole. I am also no good at sports or anything like that. My grandmother put me in ballet thinking that would help. The lowest class in ballet was the bat class. I never got out of the bat class and always had to wear a black tutu in every recital. I know I must have a talent but at 80, still haven’t found it. Again, congrats to Cole and Happy New Year to all.

  9. HAPPY New Year, what a lovely story. You will have wonderful memories for years to come.
    WE had our kids home for Christmas this year and it was delightful.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY… Jan

  10. I graduated from Mississipppi State College for Women and passing swimming was a requirement for graduation.

    Congratulations to your grandson!

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