Contest RecapMidlife Collage sponsors a weekly contest of midlife short stories. U.S. citizens and legal residents age 40 and older may enter. The Editor selects five stories for publication on our website each week. Readers leave comments and Facebook thumbs-up likes urging the panel of Judges to choose a contest winner. Readers also send the Judges their opinions of the best story on our Closing Arguments page. The contest period is Monday through Sunday noon PT. The first-place story enters the Winner’s Circle and receives a cash prize of $50. Winners of a $50 cash prize are eliglble for a $100 contest, which we run quarterly. See the Submissions Page for the Contest Rules for details. ANYONE, worldwide, age 18 or older can comment on the stories in a contest.
“Pass the ball, Sir,” the student shouted, breaking for the basket.
At least he hadn’t shouted “please” but still, “Sir?”
I realized he didn’t see me as I imagined myself, still young, fit and agile. A mirror can be one of the most thought-provoking inventions, and at the same time, a source of self-deception.
My neatly trimmed white beard negated my 6’4” height and never-miss hook with either hand. A few steps slower, I could still beat the college kids in pick-up games because of my experience, meaning in part, my understanding of elementary physics: the angle of incidence equals angle of refraction (the rebound will go to a certain spot and I merely have to stand there). And elemental geometry: the hypotenuse is shorter than the two adjacent sides in a right triangle (step diagonally toward the basket rather than trying to keep up with the guy with the ball).
I already had two sports-related surgeries in the past few years: a hernia from many years of pushing the pack in rugby, and perhaps, from trying to squat too many pounds; and when driving to the basket two years earlier, I’d turned one Achilles “ten-don” into a “two-fives-don.” I had played again after recovering from each.
So when I awoke the morning after hitting the game-winning shot in a casual five-on-five, full-court game at the nearby university campus and found my knee swollen, I didn’t worry, because I knew it would go back down in a few days. But when it did, I found that I still couldn’t walk without great pain. Eventually a specialist told me that I had herniated a disc, and I could choose between six weeks of absolute bed rest—impractical to the point of impossible—or surgery.
And so, back under the knife.
Awakening, I immediately felt fine again. At which point my brilliant and patient wife noted, “You play basketball with the college kids and you have surgery; and then you play basketball with the college kids and you have surgery. Do you see the connection? What next? Knees? Or something much worse?”
I had made my last shot, and I still think I could outplay many of the kids I see in the gym. Believing it, I don’t have to prove it. So I haven’t touched a basketball since—except now and then to see if I can still palm one.