At 40, he had a pair of young kids, a bushy, monochrome beard and thin but strong limbs. He carried a manly leather purse with a large brass clasp, in which he kept his glasses, wallet, keys, Kleenex. And always a book, or three. Work was busy, but energy was abundant. He remembered to make romantic gestures towards his wife. Maybe once a fortnight or so. At 40 he could pick up both his kids at the same time, one in each arm, and pretend to be a kidnapping gorilla. They were little, and they loved these games, and his deep voice when he read them stories at bedtime.
50 was much like 40, except for the kids, who could no longer be picked up, together or even separately. The kidnapping gorilla had been retired, as had the night time reading, replaced by new experiences. Weekend fishing trips where everyone actually fished, and drives to the country where everyone took turns at the wheel. Serious tennis games. Earnest discussions about the future, politics and ideas, the meaning of growing up. He treasured all of these. His kids were smart and interesting. He felt wise, and blessed.
At 60 he intensified his commitment to tennis. Joined a league, updated his equipment. Won some games, took trophies home. His wife chuckled when he donned his new headband for the first time. He said to her, and to his children, “I’m playing better and better. If I can play like this at 60, imagine what it will be like when I’m 80.” Tennis filled the gap left by his kids growing up, living lives. It was physical and demanding, and he didn’t notice so much that he missed them. His kids went to cheer for him, occasionally. His wife went too, sometimes. His beard was still bushy, but now dotted with white. Maybe not so much dotted with as conquered by.
At 70, his doctor said, “No more tennis. Try golf.” His knees were irreparably damaged, but golf was not his thing. He gave it a solid go, but it didn’t stick. He went back to tennis, in spite of the pain and the warnings from the medical profession. His knees persisted, but he tore his rotator cuff. Finally, after decades of steadfast loyalty, he switched out his man purse for a backpack, which was just as well since he had retired. Casual Friday every day. 70 was quieter than 60. “I say fewer words per day than I used to,” he reflected to his wife. At 70, it was the sunset of his life, he said, and this made him sad. Not because of all he hadn’t accomplished, or all he hadn’t experienced, but because life was good. His children now played kidnapping gorilla with their own. This game, he thought, had stood the test of time.
Lila Rabinovich is a social science researcher and writer. She lives with her family in Alexandria VA.
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