I ain’t as good as I once was,
I got a few years on me now.
That line is painfully evident in my life right now. At 51 years-old, I’m not what I used to be. Even more, I can’t do now what I used to do then…or something like that.
This is a painful admission for a man…any man. Because, in my mind, and in the minds of most men, we can always do what we set our minds to. It’s that pioneer spirit, that conquering mindset that says we can go into that dark night and do it…nay, we will do it.
Yet, there comes a point when reality rears its ugly head and tells us that it’s time to stop doing what you’re doing because, well, you can’t do it anymore.
This past weekend, Lipscomb University baseball held its Father/Son Day. The Baseball Bison would have a scrimmage game on that day, but, beforehand, fathers would take a little batting practice with their sons. I thought it was a great idea.
As the weekend approached, I was just a bit nervous. After all, my main objective was not to embarrass my son. Just hit the ball, I reasoned with myself. After all, how hard could it be? I’d hit a baseball plenty in my younger days. I was even a member of the .300 club when I was a senior in HS. So, I thought, just relax and do what you know how to do.
As I arrived at the field Saturday morning, my son, Griffin, came to the backstop and told me to come on down to the field. When I worked my around to the steps and onto the sacred space of closely-clipped bermuda grass and crushed brick, he handed me a jersey that I was to wear throughout the event. A nice touch.
It went downhill from there.
The team – and dads – began the session with some stretching and running. This wasn’t really a problem, except that I was stretching muscles that I hadn’t used in a while. Well, actually, probably hadn’t used them since 1982. But, I figured, how hard could this be?
After we finished stretching, we proceeded to throw…you know, play some catch. Great. This would allow me to catch my breath from…well…you know, stretching. As Griffin and I progressed in the “playing catch” department, it quickly transformed from “throw and catch” to “heave it as far as I can and then try not to get killed by the ball coming at me Mach 2.”
After taking a few grounders at first base (my foremost objective there was not to…you know…get hit…there), batting practice – or BP – now started. Thankfully, I was positioned behind a screen. It was a God-given place of refuge, a sanctuary, where I could watch the balls zing from the bat at the other dads who were busy dodging the missiles.
Finally, our turn came to take a few swings. My son, Griffin, launched ball after ball deep into the outfield. In my mind, I remembered the days when I, too, could hit a baseball high and far (sorta!). My memory served to provide confidence as I stepped into the box to take my cuts.
Pitch after pitch came, and I swung mightily at each one. Yet, as hard as I tried, ball after ball left my bat and rolled gently to the shortstop. I swung harder, and still, the same result. Surely, I could lift a ball to the outfield, just one.
Today, as I sit here, I cannot take a deep breath. And, when I move to get up from my office chair, I am visited by pains and soreness in places I had forgotten. The stretching, throwing and swinging all took its toll on this 51 year-old body and reminds me that I am…well…not young anymore.
The most painful result of this experience, though, is the awareness that I am not what I thought I was. I am not young. I am old. What I remembered of myself is now a distant memory, and what I told myself beforehand was a mental lie. Even though I willed myself to step into the box, I could not relive the memory of what I once was.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. While I had a rude awakening of my current state of affairs, I was much more moved by the experience of sharing the field and the game I love with my son. This son, once a little boy that I taught to catch and throw and swing a bat, is now a man who excels at the game we once shared together and continue love together. On Saturday, though it lasted just an hour or so, my son and I were teammates, and we played together in a baseball cathedral adorned with red-laced pearls and immersed in the smell of glove-leather.
I am content, now, to watch him play and know that it is now his game. One day, perhaps, he, too, will have the joy of sharing it with one he loves.
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. Proverbs 20:29 ESV