My father would have liked to know Dr. Young’s husband, Tad. Tad is a professional wrestler, the world-class wrestling kind, complete with lots of belts and awards (or so I want to believe). My father, he’s been dead a long time. He liked both boxing and wrestling, probably wrestling more.
My mother liked boxing, but maybe because my father did. It was in the years when there were boxers like Jake LaMotta were famous, and wrestlers like Haystack Calhoun and many I cannot recall from 50 years ago or so.
When my dad would hear somebody say professional wrestling was excessively theatrical — (a polite way of saying it was phony) his reaction was to become annoyed and then give them an argument, especially if he had been drinking.
So you learned early in my household not to disparage the sport. To me, pro wrestling did strike me as a show and not real, except for the many bumps and lumps the wrestlers took — those looked real enough. But my father saw things differently, obviously. He had at one time been an amateur boxer, and while he was usually quiet and undemonstrative, he could become agitated and excited while watching wrestling, so I feel certain he would have felt honored to meet Tad, Dr. Young’s wrestler husband.
It may seem a bit unusual for a resident in psychiatry, what Dr. Young is, to be wed to a pro wrestler, but she is. The woman presents (as we say in psyche circles) kind of as a quirky person. She has long dark hair with a tattoo on the back of her neck, and is pretty, with a big smile and very white teeth. I’d guess she is in her late 20s. I am myself past sixty-five.
A social worker colleague of mine dismisses Dr. Young as insubstantial. That could be because when Dr. Young finishes her residency, she is headed for Florida with her wrestler husband Tad. She has waiting for her (so she says) a job at a TV station answering questions and giving advice about mental health subjects. She is very excited about her new position, and it strikes me as a good fit because Dr. Young is definitely photogenic, as well as personable and rather bubbly, and of course has that big smile of hers. And she is young, which is what TV producers want more than anything.
I was surprised to come upon Dr. Young and her spouse one day as I walked along Bardstown Road. She recognized me as we passed, saying hello with her big smile. I deduced that the man with her must be Tad, the wrestler. He looked big enough, young enough, and in shape enough to be a wrestler (or a football player). I passed them going in the opposite direction, and I thought of returning and speaking to them.
I hesitated — what if the guy wasn’t Tad? Perhaps she was seeing another man on the side. I decided that was unlikely and so ran after them calling out, “Dr. Young, Dr. Young!” She stopped, as did he.
She knew me as a social worker from the psych unit at the hospital but probably not by name.
“Ray, Ray Abbott,” I said, “And this must be Tad.” I almost said, “the wrestler,” but I didn’t.
“Yes, it’s Tad,” and she introduced us.
“I just couldn’t allow you to go by. My father wouldn’t have allowed me to.” With that remark, Tad appeared somewhat uneasy as he looked about, searching for my father, no doubt.
“My dad is a long time dead,” I continued, “but he was a huge pro wrestling fan. I mean big! But so far as I know, he never met a real wrestler, and I doubt if he ever went to a match. He saw his wrestling on TV on Saturdays, and I know he would like it if I met a wrestler in his stead, kind of for him, you understand.”
I believe my father would rather have met a pro wrestler than a president.
By this time, Dr. Young was beaming, enjoying the hell out of this unusual encounter. Tad, however, was increasingly uneasy, although he managed a smile. He had sparkling white teeth too.
“My father was from the era of Killer Kowalski and Haystack Calhoun. You know them?”
“I’ve heard of them,” he replied. “They were a lot before my time. But I have heard of them.”
I was becoming increasingly nervous myself. I plowed on. “You could not have known them. You might not have been born when they were wrestling.
“You don’t happen to have one of those wide heavy metal belts, do you?” I meant right there. I pointed to his midsection. He was wearing a light jacket. It was possible to have a belt underneath his coat, although not likely. I had no idea if he even possessed one. He may not have been successful enough yet to win such an honor.
“Those belts usually aren’t worn on the street,” he told me, seeming to relax now, probably wondering just what kind of nut I was. My father must have possessed me because I became animated in a way that is not characteristic of me.
I shook hands with Tad — probably too enthusiastically, “Yes, you can’t believe how much my father would have liked to have been here to say hello to you!”
The young man didn’t know how to respond, so he said nothing, just nodded his head, and they continued on their way and me on mine. I think I can imagine the conversation that followed.
“You say you work with that fellow? You sure he isn’t one of your patients?” And both would laugh.
Raymond Abbott is a social worker and novelist.
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