Friday, December 21, 2012

Hoop Dreams, Parental Realities


The Syracuse Women's Basketball Team won their game tonight. Dad and I were there, clapping and enjoying the action. I wasn't yelling much as my throat is still pretty sore and weak after the surgery and by that time of the night, after seven, I'm old-man tired and just about ready for bed. I'm glad that the surgery went well enough that I didn't have to miss a game, but it did show me once again why I didn't go into school this week and will need to take several weeks off. All I did was ride in a car across town, walk a hundred yards or so to the Dome, sit for a game, walk back to the car, ride in the car back home, and climb onto the couch to write these words, but I'm wrung out as though I have run a 15K. That I can do this sort of thing is a gift, a blessing, and that I don't have to go to work is why I'm thankful that I belong to a union that negotiates sick time and good healthcare benefits.

All that aside, the best thing tonight is that I get to go to the game with my dad. He and I get along well especially around sports and silences. Let me explain. My brother isn't into sports at all. In fact, he disdains them, actively. Loudly. A little annoyingly. My dad and I are the ones who like watching sports. We watch the same way. We're intense in our appreciation of Syracuse University basketball (men's and women's), but we're more intense on just loving to watch the game. Tonight we were happy to cheer for SU but also had to clap for Washington State when they made an especially good pass underneath, nailed a three, or drove past the SU press. We don't live or die on the game and who wins or loses. We don't bet. We remember that it's a game. We keep things in the right perspective and so it's just fun.

We got tickets to the women's games because Dad really likes the women's game. It's old-school, team basketball. Besides, the tickets are cheaper, parking is free, and we can sit as close to the court as we like. If we tried to get men's season tickets, it would cost a fortune and we would be in the third tier of the Dome, far, far from the action. The women's games are all ours. We have about 30,000 seats to choose from.

And then there are the silences. My father doesn't mind periods in which we don't say anything. This is nice for me any time, but it's especially nice post-op since my throat is tired and so am I. Tonight, at one point in the first half, I realized that we hadn't said anything to one another for ten minutes or so. I realized it without concern. I didn't have to worry if Dad was entertained, if he was worried about my state of mind, if he was anything at all. He was just Dad. And I was just me. I kept the silence until there was a tremendous pass down low to Alexander, who went up, hit the shot and was fouled.

"And one," I said.

"Alright!" he replied

It was enough. The game went on.

Last night I was writing about my mother's and my relationship. I love both my parents and I'm learning every day how they differ and how I differ around them. My mother find some things that we have in common as Dad and I have the game, but those silences aren't easy because neither of us can be easy in them.

A friend was asking me today about things with Mom and I explained that I'm trying to remember that I can't change her, that I can only make decisions for myself. If I want something, I have to want the thing over which I can exert some control. So, if I want that easy silence, I have to learn to be easier in it and to be patient with her needs. That means learning not to give in to the anxiety of silence around her and realizing that my nervousness about it is the part of the problem that I can work on.

In full-court, five-on-five basketball the action is often frantic. Still, in the midst of that frenzy, it is the players who can find calm within themselves who score, rebound, and make the game. They can't do much about the other team, but they can affect the game through their own play. With Dad it's easy to remember, as I dribble up the court, that he's on my team and waiting patiently for a pass. Mom, well, she occasionally forgets what she's doing and runs into me, trips my feet out from under me, and so on as she rushes to do the right thing. I need to keep my head up and take care of the ball. Sometimes all it takes is that. When we need more I can call a time-out, huddle up with her and ask, how you doing, Mom? I can give her a breather, sit her down, let her know that we're still up or that we've got plenty of time to make up the difference. And sometimes I can help her understand that we're going to lose the game, but there's another one coming after that. And even if there wasn't, it's just a game. Let's see what we can do to enjoy ourselves.

Write on.