Posts Tagged ‘family’

Pickleball Anyone?

Posted: July 7, 2017 in Experiences
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One of the perks of working for a mob-boss is being invited to his country club. This usually entails playing a round of golf. I’m not much of a golfer, and the last time I went, I had a golf cart accident that sent a judge to the emergency room for stitches. Since then, Uncle Joey hadn’t invited me back.

So it came as a surprise when he asked me if my husband and I would like to join him and his wife, Jackie, at the country club for a game of pickleball.

“Uh… pickleball? What’s that?” I asked, hoping it didn’t involve pickles.

He explained that the game was a lot like tennis, only on a smaller-sized court, and using a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. He said it combined the elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong.

Since I’ve played tennis since I was a kid, and I’m a pretty good at ping-pong, I thought it might be fun. Plus, it’s never a good idea to say no to a mob-boss, no matter what he wants. So, all in all, this sounded like an easy request compared to some of the other things he’d asked me to do.

My husband, Chris, had never played the game before, but at least he’d heard of it, so that was a plus. We set up a time, and I looked forward to learning something new, though I did have one concern. Chris and I were a lot younger than Uncle Joey by at least twenty or more years, and I hoped that once we learned the game, we didn’t beat them too badly.

We arrived at the club, wearing the appropriate attire, and met Uncle Joey and Jackie at the tennis courts. Uncle Joey was eager to teach us how to play, and hoped we picked it up pretty fast, since he liked a competitive game. I thought that was kind of presumptive of him to think he’d beat us so handily. It brought out the competitive side of my nature, so I was eager to prove him wrong.

It took longer than I liked to get used to the ball and paddle. I kept hitting the ball way too hard, so it went long. When I wasn’t doing that, I missed the ball entirely because I wasn’t used to a smaller paddle. But after about half an hour, I got the hang of hitting it, and looked forward to playing a game.

I’d like to say that our first game was a success, but that would be a lie. We didn’t even score one point. Uncle Joey played with a lot of aggression… kind of like a shark playing with its food. For an old guy, he was really good.

After the first round, he took pity on us, and sent Chris over to play with Jackie while I partnered with him. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea, since playing with Uncle Joey intimidated me… a lot. Needless to say, every time the ball came my way I totally messed up. In fact, every point we lost was because of me.

At least I caught that he didn’t mind too much, mostly since Chris wasn’t doing much better on Jackie’s team. She was really good, too.

Uncle Joey gave me some tips and even encouraged me when I did something right. After a while, I started doing better. After losing the first game, we won the next two, mostly because of Uncle Joey’s mad skills, and I started to enjoy myself.

Then we switched partners again. This time I played with Jackie, which wasn’t quite so intimidating. Even though I did better, we still lost every game to the guys. It bothered me more than I liked, mostly because I picked up that Uncle Joey went easy on us and didn’t play as hard as he could have.

That lit a fire under me, and the next game, I played a lot better. We still lost, but not by so much.

After that, several other players filled the open courts, and asked if we’d like to switch it up and rotate games with them. I picked up that Uncle Joey was all for it, since he’d get to play against some better players.

It would have hurt my feelings, except that he also thought it would be good for us to play against some other teams where we might have a chance to win. So he was actually looking out for us, right?

Most of the other players were about Uncle Joey’s age, and some of them weren’t in the best of shape, so I thought he had a point, and I tried not to be offended. Plus, there were a few people that seemed really old, at least in their late seventies and one or two in their eighties. We could win against them, right?

In the end, it didn’t seem to matter how old anyone was, we still lost every game. At least there were a few that were close, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Still… playing pickleball is fun, but I learned not to underestimate the old guys.

Now, I’m hoping to get my own paddle… and one for Chris. Hey… we could get some for our kids, Josh and Savannah. It could be a lot of fun, and a great way to spend time together as a family.

Then the next time we played against Uncle Joey and Jackie, we could beat them. Hmm… on the other hand, maybe it was okay if we didn’t beat them, but it would be awfully nice to come close once in a while.

 

 

Because of the tricky situations I always seem to get into, I began training in Aikido. Aikido is a martial art that includes techniques from Jujitsu and Kenjutsu and is based in self-defense, where one uses an opponent’s energy to gain control of them, or throw them, or even escape a hold.

I began these classes only a few months ago, and just passed my fifth kyu test, which is cool, but not anywhere close to a black belt or anything. Getting a black belt would probably take me three or four years, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

Anyway, my barely teenage daughter and I (yikes is she really a teenager now?) went to the Saturday class. It was a lot of fun, mostly because it’s totally satisfying to throw a few big guys around.

Sensei, our teacher, decided to show us how to do atemi, which is a technique used to disrupt an opponent’s attack of a grab or a strike. It throws them off and helps you gain the upper hand. Atemi is done by kicking, or throwing a punch at just the right time. It can’t be too early, or they’ll see it coming, and if it’s late, it won’t do you any good.

After demonstrating the technique a few times, we partnered up and went through the technique in slow-motion before picking up the pace. By the time we changed partners, I was starting to get pretty good at the timing part which was a good thing since my next partner was a big dude.

That meant my kick would have to be pretty hard, and maybe a little higher than I’d practiced, but I could aim my punch for the stomach, so that would work. We slowed our moves down to start with, and then traded attacks. Sensei told us not to use atemi all the time, so that when we did, it wouldn’t be expected.

Sticking to his advise, I waited until after several attacks to throw in a high kick. The only problem was my attacker was a little slow… and… YUP… you guessed it… I kicked him real good right where it counts. The poor guy fell to the ground on his hands and knees, and groaned, barely able to breathe.

My face turned red and guilt burned a hole in my stomach. This was terrible. Everyone stopped what they were doing and glanced at me thinking I’d gone too far. Poor Daniel, I’d really gotten him good. He’d probably never partner with me again. Why was I kicking so hard?

Savannah gasped and covered her mouth. She glanced at me in wide-eyed horror, embarrassed at what I’d done. But underneath her hands, her mouth twitched with laughter, which she wisely held back.

By now, Daniel was showing signs of recovering, so maybe it wasn’t so bad. After my horrified apologies, he grunted a few times, and waved me off. I glanced at Sensei and he just shook his head, but he was thinking that it wasn’t all my fault. Daniel was a little slow with his reaction time, or I wouldn’t have been able to get him so good. It was also a given in the dojo that if you got hurt, it was most likely your own fault.

That helped me feel a little better, but not until Daniel was able to stand up. Guilt keep me immobile until he finally walked over to the drinking fountain and took a few swallows of water.

Everyone else went back to practice, leaving me the odd person out until Daniel came back. I was hoping that Sensei would make everyone change partners, but he was thinking that Daniel and I needed to work together again, so there wouldn’t be any hard feelings.

After a few minutes we got back into the routine and took turns between being the attacker and the attacked. When it was his turn to attack, I waited for the right moment to do a ‘fake’ kick again, making sure I didn’t go overboard this time.

As Daniel lunged at me, I timed my kick at the perfect moment to thwart him, hoping he’d see it in time to avoid it. Just in case he didn’t, I didn’t kick quite as hard. Still, somehow I managed to connect… again!

He fell to the floor, hardly believing that it had happened again. At least it wasn’t as bad this time, but still… what the hell? Did I have it in for him or something? Was his timing really that off?

Everyone felt bad for Daniel, but most of us were trying not to laugh out loud. I mean… sometimes when something untoward happens, your first impulse is to laugh, right? I had a hard time keeping the chuckle inside, especially as I asked him if he was okay.

This time Sensei clapped his hands for everyone to stop, deciding that for Daniel’s sake, and maybe mine, it was time to move on to something else. I wasn’t sure who was more relieved, me or Daniel. But still, twice in one day? Sheesh!

After that, Sensei decided to have us practice with the jo so we wouldn’t need partners. The jo is a wooden staff that’s about four feet long. He had us hold it close to the center and practice doing circle eights so we could get a feel for it. Then he told us to try going a little faster.

I concentrated hard and sped things up a bit, thinking it was just like twirling a baton like they do in the marching bands. All at once, a big thwack sounded, and Daniel’s jo fell to the mat. He held his hand to his jaw where he’d hit himself with the jo!

I burst out laughing. I knew it wasn’t nice of me, but I couldn’t help it. I tried to hold it in and turned my face away so Daniel wouldn’t see, but my shoulders shook so bad I could hardly breathe, which just made me laugh even harder.

It was one of those times I had the giggles so bad nothing was going to keep me from laughing. Then I noticed everyone else was laughing a little too. Even Daniel. With a shrug, he said something about it not being his day, and the tension left the room.

Still, it wasn’t until Savannah and I were driving home that we could finally let loose and have a good laugh. We both agreed that Aikido was a blast, and even if embarrassing things happened, we wouldn’t want to stop going.

I thought that would be the end of it, but at dinner Savannah spilled the beans. “Dad… guess what Mom did to a poor guy in Aikido…”

 

I recently attended a bridal shower for my cousin’s daughter. I don’t normally like showers where they play silly games and all that stuff. I prefer the drop-in, open the gift, give a hug, eat the goodies, and get the heck-out-of-dodge-kind. Not very sociable, but there it is. I would have skipped this shower all together if it hadn’t been for my mom. According to her, this was one shower I couldn’t miss, or I would get blacklisted on that side of the family. So, of course, I sucked it up and went.

Interestingly enough, there was some tension between the mother of the bride and mother of the groom. Turns out, they knew each other in high school, and the mother of the groom blamed the bride’s mom, my cousin, for something bad, but I couldn’t pick up what. On the outside they were acting all happy and nice, with big smiles that showed lots of pearly white teeth. But inside neither of them wanted this marriage to take place. Especially considering their thoughts that sharing grandchildren was making them both sick. YIKES!

I checked out the bride and groom and, after listening in on their thoughts, there was no question they were in love, so I just had to hope things would work out. But it really bothered me that these two women held so much animosity toward each other. Maybe I could help? Who knew? Maybe it was just a misunderstanding?

“That’s really something that you two knew each other in high school,” I said. “Weren’t you guys like best friends or something?”

Their surprised gazes turned to me, and the whole room got quiet. Then my cousin narrowed her eyes and took a breath to ask me how the hell I knew that. Oops. Before she could utter a word her daughter gasped with surprise.

“You guys knew each other? You went to high school together?” she asked. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

My cousin’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. As she took in the curious glances of everyone there, she turned toward the groom’s mother with a tentative smile curling her lips. “We had a falling out,” she admitted. “It involved a boy, as I recall.”

The other woman raised her brows, and was thinking that if my cousin was going to spill the beans, she’d better make sure her side of the story got told first. “He was my boyfriend,” she stated. “You knew how much I liked him, but you got him to go out with you while I was away on a trip. He broke up with me because of you. That was pretty low for someone I considered one of my best friends.”

“Is that what you thought?” my cousin asked. “I didn’t go after him. He asked me out. I admit I shouldn’t have gone, but he was really persistent, and I didn’t think you’d ever find out. It was just supposed to be one date.”

The other woman huffed out a breath. “Yeah, right. As if that makes a difference.”

My cousin dropped her gaze. “I know. I was a bad friend, and I felt horrible about it. I really did. I wanted to explain, but you wouldn’t talk to me after that. If it helps, he dumped me pretty quick and moved on to someone else.”

“But we were friends. You shouldn’t have done that.”

“I know, and I’ve regretted it ever since. Dating him wasn’t worth losing your friendship. But you never gave me a chance to tell you I was sorry. I tried hundreds of times, but you always blew me off.”

The groom’s mother licked her lips, realizing that for the sake of their children, and with everyone looking on, it was time to get over it. “You’re right. It was a long time ago, and really…it doesn’t even matter anymore.”

My cousin smiled, then asked. “Whatever happened to him anyway?”

After that it was hard to pry those two apart. Not only did they have a lot to catch up on, but their children were getting married and now they could finally be excited about it.

I left that shower with a grin on my face, knowing I’d done something good. It was one of the few times my mind-reading skills had really paid off, and was just what I needed. Especially since right after the shower, I had to stop by Uncle Joey’s office. It was after eight-thirty at night and I really didn’t want to go, but he was meeting with someone from his past, and after this experience, I knew it could get tricky. But on the bright side, since I’d helped my cousin resolve a sticky issue, I was sure I could help Uncle Joey. I’d just have to make sure I stood out of the way in case they pulled their guns.