Blog Post #5: For the Love of the Game
For the Love of the Game:
This past month has been a difficult one. I lost my Grandfather November, 22nd 2019. He was the best person that I knew, and we were very close. He was my first significant loss in my life and processing the grief has been a learning experience for me. The most confusing part of the experience was accepting that life moved on without him. I remember the day after he passed, I was lying in bed watching the sun rise. I was baffled as to how the sun could rise and the birds could sing and people could continue to drive to work that morning without such an important person in the world with us. How can things just go back to normal?
I felt a sense of guilt when continuing to do normal things. If I wasn’t crying all the time, or constantly looking at pictures of him, I felt like I wasn’t respecting his loss. I resumed work as normal and didn’t take off any time. It felt so odd to just resume my normal work schedule, but I thought about what my Pa would have done and what he would have wanted for me. My grandfather had passed away at the age of 87 in the process of getting ready for work. He didn’t have to go to work anymore, he did it out of choice and love for what he did. He owned a State Farm Insurance Office for over 40 years. His wife of 64 years, my Nana, worked beside him. Their offices were right across the hall form one another. To be honest, I think that working full time was a factor in his long and healthy life.
As I pulled into work that early Sunday morning and walked on the court to teach my students, I felt a lump in my throat. I heard his voice telling me to keep doing what I loved and to tough it out. After all, he was a work horse and he would have toughed it out himself. What made stepping on court particularly bittersweet was the relationship that he and I shared during my tennis career. He was my absolute biggest fan. He and Nana would drive to nearly every single match, no matter the distance. He still to this day has a section on his windowsill where he had placed tennis balls signed by me, from important matches in my career.
As I pushed my ball cart out onto the court, I could feel my eyes welling up. He would never see me play again, he would never see me coach again, he was gone. My student, a young girl walks out with a smile on her face. The smile brought me back to my many early morning Sunday practices and the joy I felt stepping on court to hit with my coach. I unlocked the ball cart as she did her laps around the court. A sense of strength overcame me and I got through all of my private lessons that day. I realized that Pa could now see every match that I played; he could see every lesson, every moment. He was everywhere and in everything. He was with the Universe now.
Later in the afternoon, my Pee Wee Clinic began. This Clinic is especially special to me because I started playing tennis at their exact age, four years old. I felt him with me as I taught the little ones and gave a great Clinic. I had flashbacks to when he would come watch me play at that very age. Looking up into the balcony where the parents watch, I saw a set of Grandparents watching my class. It brought me joy to know that I was helping to teach their little one, that they could watch my class the way my Grandpa watched mine.
The real test came when I had to step on the court to play a doubles match the next day in my 5.0 League. I felt mentally and physically drained. I was concerned that I could not perform the way that I wanted to. I called my parents and asked for their advice. My dad told me, “Stepping on the court is a victory. Your Pa would want you to play, win or lose”. He confirmed what I had already known in my heart. I walked on court that next day with weak knees and a sad heart. I channeled all of my sadness and grief into winning the match for my Pa. I knew he was watching me, after all, it was his first match in Heaven. He had probably gotten an entire cheering section together for me and I couldn’t disappoint them. We won in three sets against an opponent that I had never beaten before. I know that he was so proud.
I learned a lot about myself that day and through this process. This overall experience has taught me two very important things. One being that tennis is a gift. It is an outlet for sadness and grief. It is a place where you can heal and grow and conquer things you had never imagined you would be strong enough to conquer. Two, there is no guilt in trying to move on and heal in the ways that you know how; to feel happiness in times of sorrow. When a loved one passes there can be a sense of guilt with doing normal things. Your loved one would want you to do what you love, and for me a lot of that love involves tennis. So I find myself on court… teaching, playing, learning, conquering, all for the love of the game and for the love of my Pa.
XOXO Tennis Girl