The now dented Pewter Mug won in 1966
Today marks the five month anniversary of my right shoulder rotator cuff operation, but today is more important for another reason: Our son Ben, our daughter-in-law, Kristin, and two of our grandchildren, four year-old Flora and eighteen-month old Logan arrived today from Connecticut for a visit.
Vickie and I are thrilled!
Aside from the sheer joy of seeing them, their visit takes my mind of the ongoing “it comes and it goes” pain I still feel in my shoulder. I had hoped that would be over by now, but I still ice regularly, go to PT three times a week and have need for an occasional dose of OTC pain killer.
And frankly, though I am trying to be patient, I find myself wondering if I’ll ever be able to play tennis again. It certainly won’t happen while this on and off pain lingers.
And then …
Logan came clomping down the stares dragging “the Pewter Mug” that I won in the fall of 1966 as champion of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), College Division, Draw II Fall Tennis Championships.
At the time I won it that Pewter Mug was probably my most prized possession on earth. It represented five of the best matches I ever won.
I was unseeded and not given much of a chance against Swarthmore’s Kirk Roose in the second round, but I earned a marathon (in those pre tie breaker days) 11-9, 6-3 victory. The semi final against Pakistan’s Sandy Salaun of Lehigh was also tough, but I won, 8-6, 6-2.
In the final my opponent was Bob Mendel of Franklin and Marshall. We split the first two sets, 3-6, for him and 6-4 for me. In the deciding set I jumped out to a 5-2 lead. “Don’t think this is in the bag, Steve. Stay focused,” I kept telling myself. And it wasn’t. Bob came charging back to tie it at five all.
Then (I can feel the nervousness I felt then as I type this) I told myself over and over, “Stay calm; don’t panic,” and I won the next two games and the match.
Now that tournament in Trenton, NJ, is a long way from Wimbledon in more ways than one. But I was over the moon at what I had achieved. There were long lonely afternoons of running on the dark indoor Hamilton College track that surrounded the hockey rink to prepare. I know those wind sprints pulled me through.
It was so long ago.
But today as Logan came clomping down the stairs with the “Pewter Mug” it all came rushing back.
Once upon a time I would have jumped up grabbed the precious mug from his tiny hands for fear that he would dent it.
Today, I could have cared less.
More than half a century later that mug and the other trophies I have won over the years don’t matter, But the life lessons I have learned from playing and teaching tennis surely do.
Playing competitive tennis has taught me: to always do my best, to be a good sport, to stay calm under pressure and most of all, to never ever look for any excuse for a loss except, “He played better than I did.”
I still hope to play tennis again, and if I do I will still try to win.
But having my children and grandchildren come to visit puts winning in perspective and gives that word a totally different definition, a definition I am thankful to understand.