Thursday, March 11, 2010


I’ve had two ouch moments recently that jolted me out of my relatively comfortable middle aged existence.

Last Sunday, moments after the 6th grade CYO basketball team I help coach won its quarterfinal playoff game, we huddled together outside the gymnasium for a postgame wrap-up. Coach Connor, who just turned 17 and plays JV ball at a local high school, also reminded the team how important our final two practices would be this week.

“We’re going to work on our inbounding and beating the press,” Connor said. “But I won’t be there Thursday.”

“Coach Martin and I can handle that practice,” I said. Coach Martin is the father of Connor. His other son, Patrick, plays on our St. Isabella’s squad.

From out of nowhere, my son, Miguel, swooped in with a major dose of reality. “If you two are going to run practice you have to pay attention this time. No talking to each other on the other end of the court.”

Ouch. Double ouch.

I looked at the team and saw grins on their faces. Miguel’s smile was wide and slightly sheepish.

“I think I was just dissed by my son,” I said.

“Well, it’s true,” he said.

And he was right.

Martin and I understand the game of basketball, but we couldn’t diagram or design a play to save our lives. That is Connor’s territory. He lives and breathes basketball. Before our first round playoff game he said to me, “I was up playing basketball last night until midnight.”

Not video game basketball. Not on the computer. But real live bouncing the ball on the hardwood inside some school gym basketball for serious aficionados basketball.

So Martin and I gladly step aside at the practices when Connor is there, and what else can the two of do but converse about life, love, and avoiding serious prostrate issues for two men at or near 50?

But Miguel’s semi-serious admonition was a wake-up call for me. Then Martin called me Monday morning as I was driving Miguel and a neighbor to school.

“Maybe we could move practice to another day,” he said. “Then Jacob and Kendal (our two big men) can be there.” Both of them have never been able to practice on Wednesdays because of a previous extracurricular activity.

So Martin and I agreed to switch the practice to Tuesday and keep our usual Thursday schedule. Then the proverbial shoe dropped.

“But Connor and I won’t be there Thursday. We’re going to see the Warriors. Connor’s a big Brandon Roy fan. The Warriors are playing his team, the Trailblazers.”

Then the other shoe dropped and I nearly careened off the side of the road.

“And Connor won’t be at the game on Saturday,” Martin continued. “He’s got the SATs.”

When I shared the conversation with Miguel before we turned into his school, all he said was, “You better take notes at practice on Tuesday.”


Martin and I are on our own this Saturday bright and early for the first semifinal matchup at 9 am. If we win, we play in the championship game on Sunday afternoon. If we lose, we busy ourselves with Little League baseball, which began in late January, with regular season games beginning this weekend.

My next ouch moment occurred last night at work. Verna went into San Francisco for a special talk sponsored by her breast cancer support group. So I had the kids with me because I needed to work later, until 6:30. Normally I work until five or so, but one of my co-workers is off this week due to a death in his family. So I have to cover his hours, as I am his supervisor and those hours are at the front desk of a retirement facility, which must always be manned, as it were.

I brought Miguel with me after his baseball practice, which lasted fifteen minutes (batting practice). Verna dropped Maya off en route to her event. At one point, Maya came up to the front desk while I was talking to a private duty aide. The aide, a nursing student at a nearby university, said, “Oh, is this your granddaughter?”

I nearly choked.

“Granddaughter?” I asked. “I’m going to have to bar you from the building.”

I know I am Senior Dad, father of a 4-year old and four weeks from turning 51, but grandfather? OK, I know it’s quite possible. Verna and I met a 43-year old woman two years ago in Cabo who has eight grandchildren. I have cousins younger than I am with grandchildren. And my brother-in-law, who isn’t yet 50, has a one-year-old granddaughter.

After I recovered from the shock of her remark, which was quite innocent, she said something about her age, 33. I quickly did the math and figured out that when I was 33 my mother was 55. So being a grandfather at 50 is entirely plausible. Too plausible for comfort. But, as Miguel is only 12, he will meet a swift and untimely demise should he bless us with his off-spring in the next few years.

The hard part about being mistaken for Maya’s grandfather is that I still think of myself as somewhat youthful. Besides being in decent shape, I run around with the kids as much as possible. I play tag in the park, chase Maya up and down the slides, play several sports with Miguel, and race Maya upstairs in order to get her to bed.

Shortly after my grandfather ouch moment, one of my colleagues said to Maya, “You love your daddy?”

Maya said, “Yes.”

“What do you like about your daddy?”

“He’s silly,” Maya said. “He makes me laugh.”

Nothing like a sweet four-year old to nearly remove the sting of the grandfather comment. Then a little while later, as I shared the grandfather incident with another colleague, a young woman who is twenty and works as a housekeeper and server in the dining hall, she said, “But you’re not that old.”

“How old do you think I am, Veronica?”

“In your 30s.”

Give that girl a major raise. Promote her to CEO.

“I’m 50,” I said. “I’ll be 51 next month.”

She looked at me and said, “No way.”

The second ouch was now completely gone, having been pummeled into submission (for the most part) by someone whose mother is only 46. Hey, I had to ask. So I was essentially saved from an evening of sulking by two females not old enough to legally drink alcohol, one of whom is in preschool and recites the ABCs to help her fall asleep at night.

As for basketball, I paid serious attention on Tuesday and am completely ready to guide the boys tonight and Saturday.

Father doesn’t always know best.