May 28, 2013, 10:37AM

Sweat It Out

My genetic curse.

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I don't have very many distinct memories of my late paternal grandfather. The few clear ones I've managed to hold onto involve the man's general, genial hugeness, his hand crushing mine with a 50-cent piece at the center, the way his smile resembled a picket fence distorted by heavy weather, his mush-mouthed South Carolinian dialect, and how heavily he sweated. Put him outside in the back garden, tending his tomatoes, or in a crowd at a family reunion, and the perspiration flowed, darkening the backs and armpits of the collared shirts he invariably wore out. His breath always seemed a little labored. We never played any kind of sports together; our interactions amounted to conversations that are fuzzy, in my recollections, out on the front porch, under the awning, overlooking the Baltimore street where my grandparents lived.

Hindsight insists that my father sweated more, copiously, his close-cropped hair glistening as he dabbed at his face with an ever-present handkerchief; dude has dozens of handkerchiefs, probably as many as he has yellow sweat-stained work shirts. The culprits: helping us move (twice), badly air-conditioned apartments, ambitious neighborhood walks. My dad isn't an especially athletic guy; when I was younger, our sporting collaborations were limited to something we called "baseball practice," wherein we both bought mitts and for-real baseballs and went out to the Pikesville High School field and engaged in low-impact toss and catch exercises. Today, as my son and I square off in the backyard over a soccer ball which seems to move faster and faster with every passing exhale, the Cummings curse abides: my gym shorts dampen rapidly, my socks become heavier, and before I can wipe the sweat from my face my t-shirts are soaked.

Nodin, my son, finds this amusing, even novel. "Daddy, you sweat so much," he laughs. "Just you wait," I counter.

  • My genetic blessing: I rarely sweat, less so as I get older.

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  • I too got my heat intolerance from my grandpa. My mom would show up to his house to pick me up only to laugh with my grandma that grandpa and I wore nothing but shorts and were still sweating. Now I live in Texas

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