Over the Hill at the Age of Six (and a half)

November 4, 2010
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My sixth year of life was a turning point in a sense. I had hit the big zero-six, and I had begun to believe I was old enough to reminisce on my youth, and complain about the present. I had hit my peak plain and simple – I was retired from childhood. At that point it was all about life after childhood. I mean my whole life I was training for this jamboree of youth, innocence, and fun – and I had absolutely no back-up plan. I tried to call Prudential Life Insurance, but I did not understand the concept of dialing a 1-800 phone number, so I ended up leaving a message on a strange family’s home line. “Hi this is the Geiger residence, we are not here right now…please leave us a message after the beep.”
“Hello retirement phone number, I am Tyler. I am ready to retire and play golf. I would appreciate it if you would notify all peoples, and put me in a room with Michael Jordan and the Grandpa from “Rugrats”. I would also appreciate some apple juice.” That message was what I believed retirement was supposed to be. Because I remembered what my dad told me when Michael Jordan retired: “He stopped playing basketball because he was old, and now he wants to play golf.”

I was in my twilight years, alone, and hungry (I was hungry most of the time as a child…all adjectives to describe my feelings would end with the word “hungry”). And I never did find my true love. It wasn’t because of my needy personality, or my inability to make a Jdate.com profile – it was because all girls I knew were infected with the cootie epidemic. It wasn’t until years later that the strand of the cootie virus evolved into boobies (a modern day medical miracle!). So when a middle-aged child is having a mid-life crisis, who can he turn to if not girls?

Sports. An age-old man tradition. Sheer brutality mixed with precision, intellect, and passion. What sports should I play though? Because I was recently retired I did not want to do anything crazy. My guide to retirement consisted of an enjoyment of early-bird diners, reading restaurant menus with glasses, forgetting the last names of basketball players, and watching old episodes of ‘Murder She Wrote’. There was nothing in my “guide” about sports – I had never seen my step-granda Jerry ever do any type of sports, and he was 100% retired. I had to turn to my older kid brother, who was four years older than me, but not as old as I was. He was on his school’s basketball and baseball teams. I approached my brother one day after a nice foot soak in some hot water, and then asked him: “What sports should I play?”
“Umm… basketball is a lot of fun” he replied in a very helpful manner.
“Hah!” I remarked “With my hernia and golf elbow?” I was not sure what a hernia or golf elbow exactly was – but I heard Jerry once utter those exact words, so I knew I was speaking fluent “retiree” (the language of those retired). ”Just come to my next basketball game, Tyler. You will probably like it a lot,” my brother replied. “Okay you whippersnapper, but first I got to watch my stories and spruce up a smidgen”. My retiree-speak was getting better and better.
The next day I decided to travel to the Upper East Side with my father to attend my brother’s private school basketball game. I first called Access-A-Ride to come pick me up…however they did not respond to me…and my Life Alert medical alert system was still in the mail, so I decided I would try the old taxi cab to the game. That day was to become a turning point in my life…in a sense. I stood low to the ground, next to my father’s knees as we entered the gymnasium. Two gigantic red doors seemed to slide open, as if and elevator door had opened for me…and this was definitely the floor where I wanted to get off on. Lights pounded down onto my body, almost crushing me to the ground, until the realization of the weightless light descended.
Then I saw it.
I saw what sports meant.
I saw the precision, the intellect, the passion. This did not change me in a sense…this changed me in all my senses. I saw these athletes, I felt the floor, I smelled the gym, and I heard the sounds of strategy, fans, and the squeaks of new sneakers being used for the very first time.
Have you ever heard a sound that you did not even realize you had heard? The sound of these balls bouncing, and shoes squeaking were not really “heard” by me. They were so new and wonderful that I was immediately taken out of my body, to be with these sounds. These sounds brought me somewhere – they did not just go into my head, and keep me company…I was their company. Have you ever smelled something and found the beauty of its misery? The odor of the gym and the sweat of the athletes were not good smells. However I knew they were being made in the name of a battle of emotions and pride, so I understood them. By being able to understand these smells, I respected them. And soon I began to love them.
It was not important what happened during that game, but more importantly what happened after. Because later that day I called up ESPN to announce that I was making a comeback, and coming out of retirement…to discover the world of basketball.
To be continued…

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