Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, August 11, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

I still have my ball gloves [1] and bats and t-shirts, too. I played baseball and softball for 60 years. I loved playing baseball. I loved the identity it gave me as an athlete, from the age of ten on.

I still wear running shoes, although now they are for walking, and I have all the t-shirts and trophies I won in road races. Running was an important part of my life for fifteen years, until cancer surgery and a year of chemotherapy slowed me so much I could no longer refer to my perambulations as “running.”

I still have my pickleball paddle, and I still wear my pickleball t-shirts. I played pickleball for only two years. [2] Short-lived, but I loved it. I loved feeling like an athlete again.

Pickleball hasn’t been around very long, especially not where we lived, so I did not have opportunity to play until a couple of years ago. Yes, I could have continued when I quit about a month ago. I can still get around the court, still make all the shots. One of the other players called me “St. John of the Angles,” because of my ability to slice the ball just over the net and just inside the sidelines. I liked the people I played with.

I stopped playing, though, because I had a wake-up fall on the court. Backwards. It was a controlled fall. I didn’t hurt anything. But I couldn’t stop it, either. Once it started, I knew I was going down. I have known several old people, two quite recently, who had backward falls, hit their heads, and died, or worse.

Until the day he died, every time my father was in a nursing home, he would proclaim, “I’m going to get out of here and get my own apartment.” Sometimes he did. But he would start falling, and he’d have to go back to “the home.” Then it would start all over again. “I’m going to get out of here and get my own apartment.” One time, Helen replied, “But Daddy, you’ve been falling so much. What if you fall in your own apartment?” “Well, I’ll just have to stop falling,” he said.

It’s not that simple. Sometimes you have to accept reality, and accepting it before you do some damage to yourself or others should be part of that wisdom we always claim comes with old age.

It seems a little silly, keeping my pickleball paddle, and my bats and glove and uniforms. With the end of pickleball, I am not an athlete anymore. That was always an important part of my identity. Where I grew up, and in the US in general, athletes are the most feted [and often the most fetid] of all persons.

But I still have my pulpit robes, and a lot of books I’ll never read again, and pads and pencils and other office supplies I’ll never use since everything now is on computer. They were all part of my identity once, too.

The most important thing is to leave an inheritance for my children. There won’t be any money when I die, but I’m sure they can get a good price for splintered old baseball bats and a King James red letter New Testament, and a 3-hole punch on which 2 of the punches still work.

Don’t spend it all in one place, kids.


1] When granddaughter Brigid was three, she called baseball gloves “ball mittens.”

2] Pickleball is a cut-down version of tennis. It’s lots of fun. You can read all about it, and even see videos, on the web. One day a few months ago a young woman came to the Y to play. I invited her to take my place on the court. “No, she said, “I just want to watch for a while first.” I noticed, though, that during the whole game, she had her head down. She wasn’t watching at all. Then I realized that instead of watching the game right in front of her, she was watching videos of pickleball on her phone. That seemed silly at first, but she undoubtedly learned better how the game should be played.

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