The issue of mortality came up today
One a light-hearted experience
In the game of youth.
The other the fragility of life
On the stage of getting old.

Practice found my team going inter-squad
With the head coach pitching.
He fired that ball like a twenty-six-year-old
And I watched with wide-eyed hope
That I’d have the balls to get up there and throw.

Sure enough, he tired after all those pitches
And signaled for some relief.
His eyes were on the screen and moving the mound closer,
But I swung my arm a few times, gave Father Time the finger, and
Stepped up on the hill.

Let me say that this was the first time I had pitched
Since Clinton was President.
I was hoping to find the plate and let the guys
Smack the ball all over the place, but it was not to be.
I kind of pitched instead of throwing…finally, Jamal…

I felt like Satchel Paige,
Free and easy, just missing a curveball for strikes and
A change up of any kind,
So I lived on two different fastballs that weren’t very quick,
But found their spots just well enough to keep me safe.

Somewhere in there I noticed soreness in my glute,
That would be the lunges and the pitches starting to add up.
Finally, the game ended with me pretending to have more in me.
The reality was that I was tired and
Fresh from going at something from my youth.

While that went on,
My grandmother was way down south
Getting her first MRI
After a morning of spilling her breakfast and
Having a lack of motor control.

She had a stroke.
The care she received found everything to be minor,
But at ninety-five this was a jolt
For this woman, who lives with a flare
And denial of aging in general.

My grandmother is something between
Auntie Mame and Maude,
A woman of style and grace who demands manners
No matter how simple the gesture
And she is a lover of the gab so long as she is in control of the direction.

I love her and miss her.
As a kid, she used to cut iceberg sized piece of ice cream
And warn me about watching Starsky and Hutch or Fantasy Island.
She would listen to me recount every detail of James and the Giant Peach
While whipping up the best damned lasagna ever.

She is my grandmom and
I feel her fear.
I know she realizes that a stroke is bad.
I know she is scared for what comes next.
I know she has the strength for upcoming changes.

In her day
She rode bikes from Jamestown to Yorktown.
She flew kites at the battlefield.
She convinced a crowd of men conditioned to help her
That they better not while she managed the steep slope with her walker.

The latter being less than two months ago.
For all the style that my grandmother has
And for all the “flightiness” that was attributed to her
My grandmother is one strong woman
Who taught me that it’s okay to be who you are.

I wish we were closer today.
I’d tell her that it’s okay getting older.
We break down, can’t go on as long, or just want to sleep more,
But none of that matters.
How we live does, though. And she’s lived.

I believe my trip on the mound,
It’s denial of responsible behavior I’ve exhibited for the last twenty-five years,
Was inspired by my high-spirited grandmother.
While things get tougher the older we get,
There’s no reason to quit living.

So Grandmom, thanks for that cake, it was damn good.
I hope you know I’m with you.
And that book you told me about with the “listening fetus,”
I’m loving it.
I love you.,


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