“Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.”
The truth is, I’d love to play slo-pitch. A good friend, even older than I am, decided the college faculty should have an intramural softball team, "the Geezers." He organized it and now has them out on the field. Problem is, they got thumped in their first game, so he sent out an e-mail lookin’ for beefier hitters. Singles just don’t make it in slo-pitch.
Once upon a time, I slammed homers methodically, routinely—every other at bat almost. Not a lie either. So the siren call of playing slo-pitch got even sweeter when the Geezers took it on the chin from a bunch of squirt students who pounded home runs like pop flies.
Two reasons make my playing ball impossible. The first is, I can’t because I’m scheduled—a book club. The second is vastly more salient: I’m old. I don’t like to think about what might happen to this body of mine should I throw hard, swing hard, or even run—or try to--for that matter. This mortal coil has done nothing close to any of the above for more than a decade. Who knows what horrors I would suffer?
No matter—if I wouldn’t be at the book club, I’d be at the ball diamond. I would. I swear. At least, I think I would.
A friend of mine remembers the day his father, 70+, looked at him sardonically when this friend complained of some minor muscle ache. “Get used to it,” he said, with far more authority than sympathy.
Most mornings when I wake, I walk downstairs slowly, the railing in my left hand, my right braced up against the wall, my back crooked, knees bent. My silhouette against the dim kitchen lights must resemble Notre Dame’s most famous hunchback. And it ain’t getting better.
I wash small loads of wash lately because once a week at least a perfectly good shirt, a perfectly clean shirt, jumps off my chest to catch milk from the cereal bowl or syrup from pancakes. I get so angry, I wash them right away to destroy evidence.
But this friend of mine—the man who was warned by his father to get used to his aches and pains—right now is dying of lung cancer. He says in a note that his aches are different because now, he says, “I will never again be able to draw a full two-lungs'-worth of breath. I will ever puff at a flight of stairs. This body will nevermore be what it has been, nor can I frame my knowing it according to its ability to repair itself.”
And, he says, he’ll never get better. He’s busy “devising methods for living
the diminishing life.” And he still says, “Praise the Lord.” He still says, “Hallelujah.” Just doesn’t have as much lung to profer that praise.
I like to think I could hit a ball out of the park, but I’m a whole lot safer at a book club—I know that.
I just hope that, like my friend with diminishing lungs, when my time comes I can call upon an ever youthful faith, and say with the psalmist, at the very end of this museum-piece psalm, Psalm 104, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.”