Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Won....Wait.

I was all geared up to play in a charity basketball tournament over the weekend. Our first game was on Saturday morning and  I showed up with a bounce in my step and a hop in my shoes. I don't play basketball as much as I used to so when I get the chance, I try to make the most of it.

We won. Which was great. By the time I got home I was icing my ankle and waiting for my wife and kid to get back from the park. Ugh. By then the park sounded painful just thinking about it. While I’m not old, I’m uh, mature. Okay not mature either. And if this post seems familiar, that's because I don't learn.

But I’m in decent shape. And like I said, when I’m out there on the court, I'm all Mr. Hustle. It’s afterwards that I have a little trouble. So with our second game at three, I rolled off the couch around two and pulled on my jersey without quite so much zeal as the first time around.

We won again. Come on people, how can you lose to us? We're old. Most of us anyway. But once again age triumphed. Another victory. Great. That put us in the championship game on Sunday. Wonderful. 

Sunday morning. I staggered down the hallway, cursing Dr.Naismith, his stupid sport, and the whole month of March in general. My back hurt. My family missed me. I hunted down the ibuprofen and washed it down with coffee. Eat your Wheaties, kids.

Off to the game. We had about eight players on our team. Median age I’d put at about 40. Enter our competition. Youthful and spry, armed with headphones and aloof smirks so often found on twentysomethings. They were 15 deep, with swagger and fans and great attitudes. We had Bengay.

I'm kidding. No one had Bengay. And once we started running layups I forgot all of my AARP issues. (Seriously, my stepmom just gave me the issue with Dylan on the cover. Kind of embarrassing when company stops over). The buzzer sounded and we tipped off.

I’ll make it short. They beat us soundly. I found myself defending their best player. Dude was quick. He had me on skates out there and I was just trying to stay in front of him. Years ago I would have been all for the challenge, yapping and being an all around putz. (I don't really use the term "putz" but I thought it fit the theme here.). But instead of talking trash I made jokes about how bad my ankles were going to hurt after the game. 

Realization number one hit me like an elbow to the jaw: I’ve become that old man, the one you can’t rattle because, well, he really doesn’t give a damn.

After the game I congratulated the victors and limped out of the gym. Smiling.

The day was gorgeous. I put down the windows and stretched out my back. I was actually glad that a basketball game was over.

This is new territory for me.

It was as I was pulling into the driveway that realizations two and three dawned on me. I'm turning forty this year. Yikes. But the bigger thing that I realized was why it no longer hurts to lose. Because I hadn't lost. I've won the most important prize that one can attain.

Inside I gave my wife a sweaty kiss, remembering the day that she told me to sit down. She had news. She was pregnant. I’d just come home from playing basketball that day too. That day changed my life. 

But there was no big announcement. She was off to run errands. When my son woke up I was showered and changed and ready to hangout. He seemed happy to have me around again. I was happy not to be out playing basketball. 

We went for a walk in the woods near our house. Him with his mower and me with my creaky ankles. Our shadows lay before us. His bouncing along, looking at everything. Mine more deliberate, watching. A hand extended to his little head. That’s when yet another realization fell over me like the light breeze in my hair.

My son doesn’t care if I’m not the best on the court. He doesn’t care if I shot 3-7 from the foul line. He might've taken issue if I hadn’t showered but what really mattered to him was that my shadow was right there with his. That we were hanging out together on a gorgeous Spring day.

We stopped so he could inspect a stick, then an ant. Some moss on a rock. All the while I kept reaching out and touching the top of his head. He looked at me with that squinty smile of his.

"Daddy," he said. I smiled. We started off for the house when he stopped and turned back to me again, reaching.

"Carry me?” 

It's a face you can't deny. So I bent down, my back protesting the movement and my ankles squeaking like a rusty door hinge.

“Sure buddy.”

Best trophy I've ever held.


4 comments:

  1. oh my god, I LOVE this post!! Ending got me! ....reminds me of my own experience with Softball ...loved to play rec ball until I had my Daughter ...funny how children and age change our views on our competitive edge? But it's not necessarily bad. Again, GREAT post!

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    1. Thanks Stevie, hope you and your little one are well!

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  2. Love the post... and your connection with your family :-)

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    1. Thanks Florence, glad you stopped by!

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