Monday, October 25, 2010

falling short

Yesterday, I went to my younger son's baseball game. The day was cold and grey.What might have been nothing special in past years -- the drive, the standing and sitting as the game progressed -- was made somewhat special by the fact that my heart problems have required a variety of pills, a variety of slowdowns, a variety of grudging changes.

On the sidelines, at one point, a missed ball came rolling to my feet. I reached down and picked it up. It was perhaps 50-60 feet to the player who had missed it and he looked at me expectantly. My mind was relaxed and assured in the hundreds or perhaps thousands of times I had made such a throw in the past. The habit and ability were in place. The scene was set in my mind -- past and present were one ... this was something I didn't even need to think about. Easy-peasy. And yet, when I threw the ball, it fell short by half. All my neurons and all of my past was prepared for a completion, but it didn't happen. The young man waiting for the ball looked at me briefly with something between commiseration and contempt. Once I had gotten over my own surprise, I had a similar look.

My Zen teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, once said to me as he grew older, "I am getting weak." His mind was able to remember other times and places, but now those memories were just that -- memories much like throwing the ball 50-60 feet. The facts overcome the fictions. Old or young, I imagine that's pretty much the case for everyone. It kind of knocks the stuffing out of you, but it also brings on an imperfectly-enjoyed present. No need to taunt, "get real!" Reality just asserts itself without any effort or philosophy or bias.

I didn't like it much, but then, if I didn't have something to grouse about, how interesting would my life be?



  1. In the ICU where I work with lung intubated patients with gastric tubs, abdominal drains, bladder catheters, rectal pouches, central IV lines and cardiac leads, restraints and sedatives, and hourly assessments and repositioning various sizes, strength, agitation and confusion, requires teamwork so that everything we do eventually benefits the person and eventually we (staff, team) can discontinue all the invasive treatments for the option of waking someone up so to leave the restrictions of health care, and hopefully go on to a "better" life. But... not always.

  2. Hmmmm...

    I remember seeing "older" martial artists still having skill and strength.

    Also there are very nimble older folks at the yoga center.

    Then there are people like Jack Lalanne who even at age 96 supposedly "continues to work out every morning for two hours. He spends 1½ hours in the weight room and half an hour swimming or walking."

    While not denying the effects of aging in the least, I wonder how much of the weakness is "use it or lose it"?

    I'd bet Kyudo Roshi didn't work out, did he?

    Thanks for the lesson!

  3. Several years ago at a family gathering I witnessed a similar falling short. We were playing basketball and my sister-in-law's father, who was around 95 at the time, took a shot from about 30 feet. He fell short of the hoop by about one third, and was genuinely astonished by his performance. There was no contempt. I was myself amazed by the disparity.