When I was nine years old my dad gave me a Christmas present that today remains one of the greatest Christmas presents I have ever received.
It was Christmas morning 1966 and we were opening our gifts in the living room. My dad, who was the (self) designated present “giver-outer” handed me a small box. I noticed that the “from” on the little tag said only “Dad”. Not Santa. Not Mom and Dad. Just Dad. I opened the box and inside was an envelope. In the envelope were two tickets to a wrestling match the very next day.
We lived in San Francisco near the Cow Palace. The Cow Palace was a venue that held music events, conventions, and sporting events like basketball, boxing and wrestling. Wrestling! When I was nine years old I loved wrestling and watched matches on TV regularly. I had my favorites – all good guys of course – like Bear Cat Wright with his signature figure four leg lock and Pepper Gomez and his patented face slap. I was thrilled to get these tickets as a present and what made it even more special was that it was just from Dad and he and I would be going just the two of us with no girls (my mom and my sister).
As I grew older the fascination with wrestling wained as the “sport” became too glitzy. But I’ll never forget that day, seeing all the wrestlers I had only seen on TV and spending the day with my Dad.
Fast forward (at least) a few decades and wrestling is now a big part of my life once again. This time I’m a slightly reluctant witness. The wrestling occurs daily and frequently. It’s fast and furious, sometimes vicious, and usually accompanied by snarling, teeth-gnashing, and growling. Yet these wrestlers, like those in the sixties, have a special place in my heart and my life.
In one corner hailing from Taiwan is King Kong Kali weighing in at 57 pounds of muscle and attitude. In the other corner is newcomer Kloe the Fearless who at 35 pounds has at least 75 pounds of confidence and attitude that makes her a formidable foe for any opponent who dares to compete.
Yes, these new generation of wrestlers at my house are dogs. The matches are unscheduled and can begin at a moments notice or, which is usually the case, at the whim of Kloe who loves to terrorize her big sister Kali who (usually) accepts the match gracefully. Kali has been a great trainer and coach for her little sissy.
But here is my issue with these wrestling matches. They tend to happen at my feet under my desk while I’m working, or under our chairs while Holly and I are enjoying a glass of wine (or two) at the end of a busy day. We have a large deck, a large protected wooded area for the dogs to play in, and an empty living room pending purchase of furniture. But these impromptu matches start under our feet or quickly migrate to under feet wherever Holly and/or I are sitting.
When I was nine I would have been thrilled to have one of my wrestling heroes fighting right at my feet, although my dad may have thought otherwise. But what could he have done, right? If he intervened he might have found himself in a figure four leg lock from Bear Cat Wright or smashed by a belly flop from the 350 pound Haystack Calhoun. Worse yet his head could have been slammed into the belt buckle by Ray Stevens or Pat Patterson! Yikes.
With visions of my dad being pummeled by these 1960’s era wrestlers I think better of intervening when my two modern day canine wrestlers are engaged in head locks, muzzle guzzles, and raptor captures. So I protect my legs, the wine on the adjacent table, and I do my best to capture as much action on my iPhone as possible. Because these moments are precious. Almost as precious as the tickets to the wrestling event at the Cow Palace that my dad gave me so many years ago. My dad is gone and one day my Golden Kali and little Kloe will likely pass before me to. But I will forever hold dear in my heart my wrestling heroes who impacted my life at nine years old and more recently as an aging baby boomer.