Monthly Archives: February 2013

Milestones of aging

When I turned forty, I understood that I could no longer pretend to be a kid. Some of you may suggest the fact that I had a wife, four daughters, and a mortgage should have disabused me of that notion, but I will reply that you are merely clouding the issue with facts — we’re talking about self-perception, a realm where hard data has no purchase.

The next milestone was when I was introduced to my granddaughter Riley at Clovis Community Hospital. Becoming a grandparent sets off the aging alarms like few other things in this world, trust me. Even the marriage of her mother Amelia a few months prior hadn’t hit me with the same sort of emotional broadside. Holding a newborn is just more visceral, I think — you know on a deep level that you are in a life-changing moment.

Monday’s revelation took place on a light-rail train heading on the MAX line toward Beaverton Transit Center. I looked up from my reading of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (a book that was born to read on a commute, if ever one was) to see a young woman waving to me. She was offering me her seat in the crowded car. Oh dear. Did I really look that old and feeble? I was tired, I had bags under my eyes, my knees hurt, but still… I was really old now. Sure, this was a small thing both in time and import, but it still made me sad for a second. (My emotional priorities shifted strongly when I got to work and read the e-mail announcing the sudden death of a friend, but that is another story).

Eventually I was able to laugh at myself for this foolishness. I am not old, you know – my grandmother is still alive, for all love! Everyone knows that old is always 10-15 years older than one is at the moment. Besides, I got more sleep last night and I am moving a little better after a visit to the chiropractor. And most of all, I am alive, my wife and the best dog in the world are alive, and I have things to do. Let’s move on, shall we?

Thrilling turnarounds not reserved for the Super Bowl

Longtime acquaintances may wonder how I, as a San Francisco 49er supporter since 1972, am feeling today in the wake of the Niners losing the Super Bowl yesterday. The response, surprising as it may be to some, is “pretty cheerful, thanks.” I propose a couple of major reasons for this:

1. I was not at all cheerful after the opening kickoff of the second half was returned for a touchdown, making the score 28-6 in favor of the Ravens and making me wonder if the Niners were about to go completely off the rails. They didn’t, of course, taking advantage of a bizarre 34-minute power failure to regroup and turn the game around. They rallied furiously and had the ball inside the Baltimore 10-yard line with four chances to win the game with under two minutes remaining; how can I possibly be anything but thrilled about that? They showed commitment, resilience, and adaptability, all essential qualities for football excellence. Nothing to feel bad about there.

2. I was not as ridiculously invested in this game as I would have been in the “old days”. When the Niners last won the Super Bowl in 1995, I was living in a basement in Davis, California. I was working part-time, drinking heavily when I was wasn’t working, and generally wondering where I was and what I should be doing. I remember feeling that the Niners were the only bright spot in my life. That situation has also turned around dramatically, although it took longer than the second half of yesterday’s game (yes, I hear the jokes about how long that half was, babies born in less time, yes yes). I’ve gotten married, become a parent to four amazing daughters, and come to the Cross. Bad habits take a long time to die (which is why I hate the expression “dropped (something) like a bad habit, its *so* wrong!). My wife will tell you about the early days of our marriage when I would get so stressed watching a Niners game that she would keep the girls out of the room. I have slowly acquired some perspective over the years and gradually made some decisions about what is worth stressing about.

As longtime readers recall, my daughter Liza played basketball on an AAU 13 & under travel team. That team started out as green and inept as you could possibly imagine and eventually worked its way up to qualify for and play at the national tournament at Disney World. They won a lot of games, but my favorite memory comes from the last game in Florida. The girls were trying to protect a slim lead late in the game, but they kept losing players who fouled out. At the end of the last regulation period, they had four girls on the court, led by Liza. They came very close to pulling out the win, but eventually lost the game in overtime. I loved what those girls showed me that game, even the fact that they were sobbing with exhaustion and frustration at the end. (I also love that they were enjoying themselves at Disney World a few hours later.)

These days, I don’t worry as much about who wins; I hope that that my team plays with heart, commitment, and responds well to adversity, as the Niners did yesterday. That seems like a more useful approach to most things in life, to my mind.