This week, Anne and I drove to the Florida Keys where we joined my son Bob and daughter-in-law Elena while they did some scuba diving. This is a sport that Anne and I are not crazy about as we listen to reports on the numbers of sharks lurking around South Florida waters this time of year.
Like many fathers living in a small town, I was involved with coaching my own children in all sports. Being a professional golfer, I tried to steer them toward a lifetime sport like golf. A sport that was fun, safe and something we could do together. I now realize that they played golf to appease me and also that there are literally different strokes for different folks.
Now I know better. My job is to just love whatever they enjoy.
So, my original plan for this week was to do a column on scuba diving. After a few days observing people on my trip, I realized for many of them a sport is now just getting up, getting dressed, putting on a smile and getting out the door. Being a rookie in this area, this is my tribute to what I would call the courage of the elderly, those who have lived a long life and learned firsthand how to suck up the bad and concentrate on the good.
With the problems the elderly face on a daily basis, it always impresses me the way they still present themselves in public. Things today are a little different from when they would jump out of bed and in no time at all be off to work. Today when they get up in the morning you can bet they are suffering unbelievable aches and pains in their muscles, joints and bones. In spite of that, they still dress, take their daily handful of pills, put on a smile and venture out to mesh in a world full of young people.
For many, most of their days are now quietly spent with doctor appointments and different medical operations, but they’ve learned not to talk about their problems. They hate to ask you to help them no matter what it is they might need; they only wish they could do it themselves. Unhappily for them, almost all family, friends and mentors who were older are now just memories. Although most have retired from a full-time job, you can bet they still want to contribute in some way to today’s society — just ask them.
These current senior citizens were the players 50 years ago who were creating the records we are trying to break today. I love to hear the stories about their playing days and they love to have someone listen. I believe they played more for the love of the sport than we do today. When they were active, the money just wasn’t around.
Some of my local sports heroes I admire who are still actively playing today are Jack Levin (105), Arthur Levin (99),Vincent Caccese (99), Sid Beckwith (94), Bill Dickerson (90),Williette Piccozzi (86), Jerry Berner (85) and Jerry Glassberg (85). All are among that group of people who refuse to let an ageing body stop them from getting the most out of life.
My final story happened last Sunday night in the Florida Keys. We were having dinner with some Island friends, Bill and Casey Hannabury, Tom and Dillon Cronin and Josh and Janine Mothner, when I witnessed something I wish would happen more often. Before dinner I met a couple from Virginia. After dinner I walked over to their table and overheard the waitress telling them, “She is waving to say thank you.”
I had to beg them to tell me what it was all about. Finally I was told they picked up the check for an old woman on the porch eating by herself. They did not know her, but explained they knew she was lonely, was someone’s mother, and they just wanted her to feel a little better.
My tribute to all you seniors is a “thank you” for still taking care of yourselves, refraining from telling us how much things hurt and putting on those smiles like everything is just fine. Even if you can’t play sports anymore, we enjoy stories of your lives’ accomplishments in your jobs, families and sports.
I will cover the scuba divers at a later date but I just felt that my stories will never include some people. I wanted you folks who are fighting hard just to retain some mobility to know what you are going through every day has become your sport.
Play it well!