I have always been able to connect with people younger than myself.
Age has never bothered me. I often joke about my age because I am usually the oldest in the group. As a teacher, joking about my age made perfect sense. I was always considerably older than my students and it provided me the opportunity to demonstrate to my students that it is OK to laugh at yourself. I was able to teach them how to joke around with an adult without crossing “the line.” My students have almost always said that they didn’t think of me as old, even though I was older than most of their parents.
As a basketball coach, I have always related well with my players. I taught my players how to show respect for people older than themselves and that trust and friendship can stretch between generations. Many of my former players, whether in their thirties with families of their own or still in college, still keep in touch. Even with the age difference, they always know they have a friend in their former coach.
It is with my friends that I like to joke about my age the most. Often my response to the inquiry of how I am is a half-hearted, “Not bad for an old guy.” Again, I hear repeatedly that I am not old. I have always felt that my friends were sincere in their words because we got along so well, despite their youth in relation to my experience. Ok…Ok…despite their being so much younger.
Tonight my age crept up on me like a runaway train!
My basketball team, in an over thirty league, had a game against our nemesis the green team. This team has been able to find a way to beat us in many close games over the past couple of seasons. Tonight looked like it would be different as we jumped to an early advantage. Unfortunately, they switched their defense to man-to-man and cut into our lead. Finally, in the second half, they claimed the lead before we were able to wrestle it back. A late three-point shot by their shooting guard forced an overtime period. In the extra three minutes, we outscored them by two points and secured the exciting win. I was extremely proud of my team.
Problem is, it didn’t feel like I was part of the team.
Many of the players on the team are closer to thirty than forty. I of course am closer to fifty than I am forty. We have a player on our team who has made himself the unofficial coach. “Dr. J” is not the most knowledgable member of the team, but he is the loudest. Tonight, he made the conscious decision to play “the old guy” as little as possible. I can’t say I blame him, these are young, competitive guys and the lead in the standings of the exercise league was on the line. I too am competitive, but young is not a term I would use to describe myself.
At least, not after tonight.
“Dr. J” made it clear to me tonight that he wanted young people on the floor and that my services were not needed nor wanted. Tonight, I was truly, no kidding around, the old guy.
As I drove home, I couldn’t help but wonder if others are feeling similar but just too nice to say anything. It could be what I took as a rude slap in the face may have actually been a kind way of letting me know that I need to find more friends my own age. Funny how quickly one goes from being one of the young crowd to one the young crowd puts up with.
This a lesson I will take with me in my journey through life. It makes me wonder how people much older than myself must feel. Clearly Bogey at 46 is much wiser than I was at 26. Life’s experiences have taught me so much, and I am a better person for each lesson I have learned. I must remember this when provided the opportunity to spend time with the elderly. Their bodies may be weaker, and their voices may not carry the volume they once did, but there is no substitute for life experiences.
If I can take the lesson of tonight, the humiliation of being cast aside, and make it a part of me going forward, then I will be the better person for it. I never want to be that person who doesn’t appreciate what experience has to offer.
I hope I can say that I relate well to the young and old. I hope that I will not get to be so full of myself that I forget the feelings of others. Whether a rookie or a seasoned veteran, I don’t want to be the coach that makes anyone feel forgotten on the bench during the game of life.
After all, young or old, everyone has something they can teach me on my road to 100.