TEN FEET TALL

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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. 

BEYOND THE BEND

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I visited a hospital twice this week:  first to see the newborn son of my handyman and then to sing to my ninety year-old, dear friend as he drew his last breaths.  Odd as it may seem to the reader, both were joyous events.  The first because I glimpsed the future in the face of that baby boy as his teary mother cradled him close.  The second because I reflected on all of the lives touched and forever changed by my friend of 35 years.  His life literally made others sing and both the Oak Ridge Boys and Vince Gill sang at his funeral.   

If you’ve read my previous musings, you know that I value age and all the baggage it bears.  The elderly have had their past while the young are still figuring out how to make it.  The beauty is they need each other:  having young people in their lives keeps the elderly hopeful; having older people in their lives keeps the young mindful. 

 As a kid being raised by my grandmother, I was forced into being around all those wrinkled, arthritic, slow-moving creatures.  Some were fascinating, like the crony of my great-grandmother who had a talking Myna bird.  Others just gave me the creeps.  All of them were full of yarns about the days gone by.  Their stories warned me where not to go in my own life, but they also gave me glimpses of where to seek joy on roads that I had not yet taken.  I figure if I’m really lucky, my own journey will last as long as theirs.  So I listen and watch.  They are me, someday.  

The poet, May Sarton, wrote this about aging:  “The trouble is, old age is not interesting until one gets there. It is a foreign country with an unknown language to the young and even to the middle-aged.” So, I am learning the ‘language’ as I go in hopes of discovering what lies for us all. . .beyond the bend. 

Here’s the thing:  I love learning from the young about new music, dances, technology and lingo.  However, If I were given the choice to hear one final, favorite melody in my life, I would not choose some current song downloaded on my iPod.  I would ask to hear Chopin played on a Steinway grand by well-seasoned hands.  That would be bliss.