If you are one of the 17 long time readers you know that I have related more than once my love for basketball and how I am struggling to gracefully accommodate some of the changes that this 40 year-old body demand from me. New aches and pains introduce themselves with more consistency than I care to acknowledge.
Little nicks, scrapes and bruises seem to accumulate with greater frequency and regularity than ever before. What I find especially unfair is that they used to heal instantly and now they hang out as if they are old friends. Not cool I say, uninvited and unwelcome guests I’d kick their asses right to the curb without a second thought.
But such power is refused to me. I can’t stop the clock. I can’t prevent that infernal tick tock noise from continuing. Sometimes I feel like there is an internal clock inside my skull whose ticking I can always hear.
It reminds me of conversations with my paternal grandfather, may he rest in peace. Later today I’ll go to the cemetery and visit him. I’ll sit there and think about all of the good times we had and how many questions I have for him now.
Three years later and I have more questions for him than I ever did. Three years later and I just miss him.
I remember visiting him in the hospital and asking him how he felt. He smiled and told me that he wasn’t ready to die. I said that was good and then he told me that he’d fight for every breath. I laughed and said that it wasn’t that serious and he told me that he knew that, but that is what we do. We fight to keep going on as long as we can.
It was said partially in jest, but there was truth in it. He was a scrapper and street wise. He may not have had a college degree but he was very well read and informed. He always knew what was going on and could speak intelligently on a variety of topics.
Sometimes I feel badly that my children never knew him as I did. It seems a bit unfair that they didn’t get to benefit from his wisdom and counsel as I did. He wasn’t just my grandfather but a trusted friend and confidant. Right until the very end he was someone I could rely upon.
It is fair to say that he and I are/were very similar in many ways.
Anyway, some times when I am out there running with the young bucks and I am having trouble keeping up I can hear him talking to me. Sometimes I can feel him running along side encouraging me to use my head and I remember that the best way to beat the twenty somethings is to use my head.
So I start talking to them. I look for little things that distract them. Sometimes I’ll complain about my age and whine about being tired or my back hurting. Other times I’ll go after that frail male ego and tease them about not being able to beat an old guy off the dribble.
It doesn’t always work, but there are plenty of times when it does. I play possum a lot. I conserve my strength and use in short bursts. I don’t have the endurance to go hard the entire time, but there are brief moments where the turbo kicks in. I love surprising those kids. I love it when they ask me where it came from and wonder how the old guys won.
That is one of those life lessons that I give my grandfather credit for. The crafty old veteran who would taught me to play fair but to recognize when I was being hustled. You didn’t fight unless you had to, but if you did you hit harder, faster and longer than the other guy. They went down because we keep fighting.
Part of the significance of Yom Kippur for me is taking time to think about my life, what it is now, what it was and what I hope it will be. Part of it is taking time to remember who helped me get to this place. Part of it is asking if I like the man I am now.
Resilience. Determination. Persistence. They are all part of the many lessons that I learned from my grandfather. The one that resonates the most right with me at this moment is remembering that I have all of the tools and resources that I need to be the man I want to be and to live the life I want to live.
The only question is will I use them.