Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
When I was really young, before my sixth birthday, I had to have surgery. It repaired my hearing. Turns out, I was legally deaf. Some sort of buildup couldn’t drain. The surgery was a complete success. But it left me with a different problem. I had a severe speech impediment. By the time I was in second or third grade, I had become the whipping boy at school. Everyone took shots at me. I was easy pickings when it came to goofing on my voice. Although my name was Vinnie, the kids never called me that. They called me Vinna. That’s what my name sounded like when it came out of my mouth. They would say it as if they were a person who was severely handicapped. Quite frankly, that’s what I sounded like. Here’s the kicker. As many of my readers may know, I went to a private Catholic school. I was taught by nuns. The nuns generally took pride in joining in on the fun. They would often make fun of me in front of other kids. One nun referred to me as Marble Mouth. I was also told to swallow the grits I was eating before I spoke. I couldn’t stand those sadistic bitches. I hated my life as a kid. I was goofed on by fellow students and the only people I could count on, these “Daughters of God,” were even worse. Going to school and getting home was no better. The private school shared a school bus with the public school system. Those kids also took great pride in messing with me on the bus. I wanted to fight back, but I couldn’t. I would only get my ass kicked by groups of kids. I would often dream that I would become a superhero like Superman or Batman or any of the others from comic books. The only problem was, even at the ripe old age of 10, I realized superheros were only cartoon characters. I told you that to tell you this. One Saturday I was flipping through the channels on the television. Back then, we only had three channels. I stopped at one of the three because I saw something interesting. There was a man dressed in a tight black T-shirt with black pants. He had bulging biceps and triceps. He had a huge vein running over the top of his bicep. I was mesmerized. This man looked like a real superhero. His name was Jack LaLanne.
He would lift weights up and down. At the ripe old age of 9, I realized that by pushing weights up and down, I too could look like a superhero. I watched Jack every single Saturday. As he described proper pushups and situps, I listened closely. I found a piece of pipe that I would hang bricks off of the ends and copy what my hero had done. Every now and then the brick would fall and pinch my fingers, causing me to bleed. That pain was nothing compared to the pain I felt in school every day. I continued to exercise. Jack mentioned running, so I did that too. When Jack talked about jumping jacks, I did those as well. I thought jumping jacks were named after him. He said do pullups, I did pullups. I did it all. By the time I was 10 or 11, not only did I have physical power, but I also felt empowered. No longer could these sadistic bitches get to me. No longer could the kids bother me. I learned how to kick ass and take names. Jack gave me something more. He taught me a way of life that I’ve never abandoned. At 48 years old, I still follow those teachings. I always got a kick out of the fact that Jack worked well into his 90s. I love the fact he never abandoned the truth. He never told lies. He never told people they can get in shape in five minutes. I always felt like Jack was a friend, even though I never met him. A man that I never met changed my life as a young kid. It makes me wonder how many other people he helped. I know it’s got to be in the tens of thousands. I grieve with the rest of the world now that he’s gone. I have a feeling he’ll live on forever through his teachings. I just want to say thanks to a man who meant so much to me, even though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him.
“I’m going to help you help yourself.” – Jack LaLanne