My wife and I have attended the annual Parkview Elementary School's Grandparents' Day ever since we have had a granddaughter there. This year was no different. We always get dressed up for the event since they take a portrait of the child with the student's grandparents. After a welcome from the classroom teacher, the grandparents and grandchild interact while working on a short educational project. Then off they go to get their picture taken and have lunch. This predictable pattern has been repeated since kindergarten. However, this year there was a new wrinkle-after lunch, the grandparents were invited to play kickball with their grandchild's class. While I mused over the thought of playing kickball, I looked around the room at the rest of the grandparents. There wasn't a person there that could get out of their chairs without a major effort let alone venture out to the playground. Besides that, I was stuck with how old they all looked. Now, granted, I don't look quite as young as I feel or think I am, but those grandparents looked more like great-grandparents!
When the time came for kickball, my granddaughter wanted to play on her grandmother's team-a sign of female bonding. I soon found myself playing deep shortstop in my kickball uniform-tie and white shirt, new leather coat, and brown dress shoes-the kind without cleats. The weather conditions weren't ideal for the big game since it had been raining most of the day. However, the rains fortunately stopped just in time for us to take the field on this typical mid-November gray and chilly day.
My granddaughter's team was up first. The first kickers were the athletic young boys with testosterone-loaded aggressiveness. You know the type-the kind of kid that would slug a teammate while waiting to come to the plate. The first kid merely grounded out. The next kid lifted his kick and the ball shot off his foot like it had been fired from a howitzer-right at me. I reacted automatically having been pretty good at kickball a half-century ago. Responding to a line drive is one of those abilities like riding a bike; once you learn, you never forget how to do it-even if the ball that was completely wet from contact with the asphalt field.
Smash! The wet ball slammed into my shoulder area leaving a wet impact mark on my white dress shirt. Before I realized that I was overdressed, I had thrown the ball to first base and doubled-up an inattentive runner who missed judged my kickball expertise. I heard from behind me the same question from the boys on both teams, "Whose grandfather was that?"
As I jogged back to my position, I thought to myself-if you think that catch was good, wait until I get up to bat. If you think that catch as good, wait until you see me at the plate. Soon, we had gotten the other team out. As I went off the field, one of the fourth grade boys said to me confidently, "You kick fourth!" I liked the kid's confidence that the three boys in front of me were planning to get on base and that he had been recognized for my cleanup capability. Sure enough, the kid was right. I got up to kick in that inning. I kicked a high fly to deep right field and was on my way to second. The kid on first had to hold up thinking that the fly ball might be caught. Therefore, I had to head back to first. The other runner, soon realized that the ball would drop in, took off for second. As he rounded second, I took off like the proverbial bat. I soon realized that ground conditions weren't going to allow me to stop at second. This truth occurred to me, as I slid on the asphalt and rolled like a paratrooper landing in a high wind, that I again wasn't dressed for playing kickball. I didn't ruin my business uniform, but both my palms, especially the right-hand took most of the impact with the asphalt. As I got to my feet, I realized that the right side of my slacks were completely wet and the my palms were revealing the tell-tale results of using ones palms to come to a skidding stop on asphalt. As I shook off the bright red blood dripping from my palms, I could again hear the inquiry, "Whose grandfather was that?"
My palms are slowly healing, but in the couple weeks of recuperation, I had time to ponder my adventure this past Grandparents' Day. While my palms did smart, perhaps my willingness to play kickball kept me young and not like those other old codgers. I'm sure that in time my palms heal completely. However, none of those fourth grade boys will forget that Ayanna Campbell's grandfather played like a vintage, Pete Rose, Mr. Hustle.