My Grandpa Dutch now resides on the other side of the veil. When he died, I inherited his tennis racquets, a simple and fitting offering from the man who introduced me to the sport he loved.
Thirty years ago, on a typical warm Southern California night, he took me to my first tennis lesson with his favorite coach, Hector. During the course of that lesson, the ball met the sweet spot of my racquet for the first time and I was hooked. In that moment, the sport he loved became the sport I loved.
He’s been gone from this earthly plane for three years now. For all that time, his racquets have sat propped up in my closet. You see, that young girl played up through high school, and after years of drills, practices, lessons, matches and tournaments, the love left. And for 21 years, I didn’t step foot on a court. I wasn’t sure I’d ever play again. I couldn’t even fathom wanting to.
Then, one day, my kids started asking me about my tennis days: “How old were you when you started?” “Did you play singles or doubles?” “Were you good, mama?” My oldest expressed interest in taking lessons, so I signed him up. And, let me tell you, as a spectator, watching him and his joy, I remembered…
And I noticed the desire to return to the sport welling up in me. The love of it had found me again, by way of my children. I have a sense my Grandpa had something to do with that. Because, we never truly ‘lose’ our loved ones. Rather, they continue to work in our lives from the other side, in some ways, even more powerfully than they could here on earth.
So, yesterday, I got back onto the court for a lesson — 30 years after my first one. It felt like an act of courage to show up. I hadn’t picked up a racquet in over two decades. I was worried there would be such a stark gap between my former and current abilities that I’d become frustrated, embarrassed and disappointed in myself for letting so much time pass.
But, I showed up anyway, and, rather shockingly, it all came back – the strokes, hand-eye coordination, timing, but mostly…the LOVE.
Sure, I will need to build back up my strength and endurance and practice and refine my strokes. Moving quickly around a court is more difficult for an early midlife woman who has grown and birthed two children than it is for a lithe teenager. That’s okay — tennis fitness can be gained back. But perhaps, more importantly, that teenage girl’s mental toughness has nothing on this mama’s.
And when my new instructor gently and encouragingly called out commands, I could hear the voice of my first tennis coach, Hector. And, I felt the looking on, pride and support of my Grandpa again, just as I always had. I honored him and myself by stepping onto that court yesterday, and I intend to continue to honor both of us in the days, weeks, months and years to come as I find my way back to the sweet spot.