Okay, so maybe I was putting off my new gym routine workout. Or maybe I was looking to add that ‘new hobby’ all the experts say is important at my age. But the way I see it, that 8 year-old making baskets all by himself at the Y last week just needed a little friendly competition. . .and I was ready.
He was watching the six-foot plus guys play pickup. His big-eyed stare lingered on every swoosh and lay up they made. Then, with a slight sigh in his shoulders, he dribbled and shot a few hoops of his own at an adjoining basket. Considering he stood little more than four feet, he was pretty darn good.
I opened the door and stepped inside. He looked up at me as if I had just walked into the “Mens’” room by accident. Naked.
“Hey,” I said, trying to sound as normal and casual as possible. “Want someone to shoot with?” Imagining how out of place I must have looked to him, I was completely prepared for rejection. To my utter surprise, his eyes opened wider and he said, “Sure. Wanna play H-O-R-S-E?”
Oh boy, did I. Back in elementary school, I had a pretty mean “granny shot.” Even the boys were envious of my rather impressive string of baskets made from the foul line. Granted, that was 50 years ago, but still how hard could this be? I had already lived more years than he weighed!
He didn’t pause for introductions or rules. He just started dribbling like mad and banked the first shot right into the basket. Then he threw the ball my way. “Now you have to do the same shot I just did,” he said with a serious look. I took a few steps and dribbled. I eyed the spot on the backboard where I knew I needed to hit, and in it went. “You’re not bad,” he informed me as I passed him the ball. Then, he dribbled straight to the foul line. When he missed, I actually heard myself breathe a sigh of relief.
Ten minutes in, we were tied at, “H-O-R-S.” I figured that was a good place to stop. We said our farewells and he went back to his own game with a slight lift in his shoulders. I left feeling the same way and headed towards the dumbbells, (which are aptly named by the way). Neither of us had the satisfaction of winning nor the deflation of defeat. That’s a nice place to be. Funny how ten minutes can make you feel ten feet tall.
* Read an interview with Helen in the September 2013 issue of Counseling Today.