The morning after is often far more painful than I expect it to be.Â I wake up and roll out of bed on legs that ache and a sore back and slowly walk towards my bathroom. The dark haired beauty looks up and smiles. Long black strands of hair cover her own face and I smile and grunt at her. She runs over to me and wraps her arms around me. Sometimes it hurts to bend over and a grunt slips through my lips. She looks up at me, eyes narrowing and asks me if I am taking care of myself. I smile and tell her that daddy is bulletproof. She shakes her head and wonders out loud why I am grunting.
“It is nothing more than gas pains,” I reply. A 6.5 year-old doesn’t bandy words about.Â She shakes her head again and tells me that she always knows when I have been in the bathroom.Â I smile and tell her that if she is not careful she’ll have the sort of real life experience with gas that she doesn’t want to have. She rolls her eyes at me and tells me that her big brother does that all the time. I play stupid and ask what he does. She rolls her eyes again and tells me that he likes to come into her room and fart. I try not to laugh but she is on to me already.
“Daddy, I know that you used to do it to your sisters too.” I try to protest and she says that she heard my little sister complain about it this past summer. I can’t help myself and I start laughing. She tells me that she heard Aunt Sally tell Grandma about it. I am sure that it is true, her having overheard a conversation. This girl of mine is always paying attention. She listens to all that goes on around her. Placing her hands on her hips she asks why boys think stupid things are so funny and I roll my eyes.
“I ain’t as good as I once was
I got a few years on me now
But there was a time, back in my prime
When I could really lay it down”
As Good As I Once Was- Toby Keith
Out on the court I am doing my best to pace myself so that I have enough gas to last the night. I am not dead or dying nor old enough to worry about such things but I have accepted that my body won’t respond as it did when I was in my twenties or even my early thirties. Basketball is supposed to be a team game but not everyone on the court understands that. Most are good guys and I like them well enough, but the talent level is really mixed. If you get stuck with the wrong teammates you end up playing far less than you might want to. Not to mention that if you sit for too long nature plays a joke upon your slightly older than you used to be body and causes you to stiffen up.
So even though I try to pace myself I am always concerned about having to sit, especially when the talent level isn’t what I want it to be. I am not skilled enough to dominate on talent alone, but I play hard and that often makes the difference. A loose ball goes into the backcourt and I take off after it. The twenty something year-old kid is running with me and I can see that might beat me to the ball so I dive on the floor after it. Sure enough he manages to get a step in front of me but sadly he isn’t prepared for Jack the torpedo. Mass equals velocity equals my flying body just took this kid out. Sliding on my belly I manage to bat the ball to a teammate and then momentum takes me into a bunch of chairs.
Adrenalin and ego push me back to my feet and I lumber back the other direction. The guys reward me for my effort with a perfect pass that I turn into shot off the rim, so much for the highlight real.
Not long after our first encounter of the morning the dark haired beauty looks at me and asks how I got the bruise. I point to the one on my arm and she shakes her head and points to one on my thigh. Shaking her head again she tells me that I am not careful enough and that I am going to get hurt. I bend over…slowly so that I can look her in the eyes and tell her that I am ok. She tells me again that if I was ok I wouldn’t grunt. Moments later I am involved in a full blown discussion about why I play basketball and whether I am too old to continue.
“I ain’t as good as I once was
That’s just the cold hard truth
I still throw a few back, talk a little smack
When I’m feelin’ bulletproof
So don’t double dog dare me now
‘Cause I’d have to call your bluff”
There is a game later that night but I decide not to play in it. The Monday night game was good but I expect the Wednesday night game to be more fun. Still, I have to fight not to go play. The reason I don’t is because I know that my legs will feel better if I take a day off. Later on the dark haired beauty will ask me if I am playing and I will smile and say no. She smiles and tells me that she is proud of me for not hurting myself. If it wasn’t so damn late I would have grabbed my shoes and headed to the court. Grumbling I shake my head and walk away.
The work day comes and goes and I head out to the court. The guys wonder who pissed me off because I am playing with a vengeance. I run through screens, chase every loose ball and just abuse my body all night long. Eventually the night ends and we climb into our cars and head home. Adrenalin keeps me going long enough to get to the shower and bed. But Thursday morning proves that I am not the only creature that plays with a vengeance.Â My legs and back ache like they never have, but I grit my teeth and walk. I just need another 20 minutes or so and I will be loose enough to move around.
As I walk towards the bathroom the dark haired beauty makes eye contact with me and runs at me full speed.When she crashes into me I grunt and smile. She looks up at me and says “daddy” in a way that says that I am in trouble. I look down at her and think that maybe I don’t need to protect her from the boys, but the boys from her….