I am hung over from the midnight match, manning 2 computers to watch my son’s 3 o’clock college game live on-line at 10 pm Euro time.
Squinting at a stop/start video picture, the size of a deck of cards, on one screen while scrolling down another tracking “delayed” live stats, is almost more frustrating than no game connection at all.
After leading, Nic’s team lost in the last second. I shout, swear and slap the desk. Why stay up all night to follow a losing team during a losing season especially when my son plays only minutes? Because I feel honored that he suited up even just to sit the bench. He offered me a chance to be a part of sport USA, which I sacrificed when I moved abroad.
Ironically, I left States in pursuit of a better life, at least for a female basketballer out of a job. When my pro team folded, I flew to Paris where I was so lost I might as well have been blindfolded. After two years in Germany, a car accident ended my career. Now, a never day goes by without throbbing between my shoulder blades, in my low back, and at the base of my skull due to a broken spine. Though it’s been 3 decades since I last drove the baseline, no physical pain compares to my heartache every time I see a hoop.
Fate played a nasty trick. I gave up my family and homeland in pursuit of the right to play basketball, but that privilege disintegrated when my body failed me. I forfeited my own right, as well as, those of my children.
Whereas Americans relive their athletic exploits through their offspring, I bore my children abroad where sports never mattered the same way. Even though Nic and Nat, son and daughter of a semi pro volley ball and a pro b-ball player, inherited our athletic prowess, raised in France and Switzerland, they never had the same opportunities as American kids who learned how to give-and-go in kindergarten.
To send them back to the States to play college is a long shot; yet they rise to the challenge.
Guilty of imposing my goals, I rationalize that being part of a team in the competitive American atmosphere will make them better prepared for the reality of the work world. But will it? Or am I merely trying to resurrect my old dream and play again by standing on their strong, young legs?
Had I been able to play a few more seasons in Europe, and enjoy club ball into middle age, would I feel less frustrated? My interrupted final season, like unfinished business, haunts me with a loss so profound nothing fills it, not coaching, teaching, writing, nor even marriage and motherhood. Now with my body racked by pain, I lay in bed, staring at the pine ceiling of my Swiss home, praying, « Help me find another purpose. » From as far back as I can remember, I lived to run, jump and play; the rest was just background music for my own “break” dance. Each day, like a mantra, I repeat « Focus on what you can do, not on what you cannot!»
Just Do It!
So I stumble, fight to stand and cheer long distance, «Go team!» Real players never lose; they learn. And then step back on the court.
When I was growing up, I abhorred walking. Walking was too slow, too boring, for old people. I would bike, run, skate, even parade around the block on stilts to reach my destination. After a car accident ended my athletic career, I aged overnight. Forced to give up the pavement pounding I once loved, I concentrated on being able to put one foot in front of another and walk again.
In the beginning, I still hated walking, too slow, too boring, for old people. But now that I am old people, I have learned to appreciate it. Europeans helped me acquire a taste for walking. My German friends insisted on “spazieren gehen” through the woods surrounding Marburg. In Paris, like the French, I escaped my tiny apartment by heading outdoors, rain or shine, to a “promenade” in the park. In Switzerland, walking is as natural as breathing, especially in this nation of hikers, where every mile is beautiful.
In our techno, fast-paced, modern world, walking has become a lost art. Yet walking, which combines fitness, relaxation and meditation, is the safest sport. It costs nothing, wastes no energy, burns calories, builds muscle, fights fatigue. When I feel anxious, angry or depressed, I walk until worries slide off my shoulders.
I step outside my door into orchards and vineyards on the fertile slopes above Lake Geneva. While the sun slinks behind the Jura Mountains over my right shoulder, light shimmers around the white-peaked Mt Blanc to my left. The fields flame in amber, gold, rust of autumn marking the harvest in earth’s last hurrah before lying fallow for winter.
Walking forces us to slow down long enough from our hectic lives to appreciate the beauty of the moment, to take stock and count our blessings. Even though I live thousands miles from loved ones, I picture them walking in their daily lives. My sister paces around Yorkville’s newest subdivision at dawn, my daughter strides the halls of Minneapolis hospitals during morning rounds, my parents meander around Northland Hills mid day, my son dashes through Macalester quad to ball practice early afternoon, my niece marches in the band across Shaker Heights football field after school, my sister and brother-in-law stroll oak-lined streets of Golden Valley hand in hand at dusk.
Somehow when I walk, I am closer to family, matching each footfall step by step round the clock. Every hour of the day someone I love, somewhere, is walking to work, school, or practice.
I once dreamed of running marathons and skiing mountains, alas injury and illness prevented those goals. Though each year it is harder to roll out of bed, instead of lamenting what I can’t do, I focus on what I can do – walk. No matter how badly the rest of the day has gone, I am filled with wonder and wellbeing. Suddenly all is right with world.