By Tony Hooker
Getting old, part I.
Gerascophobia =Fear of age: An abnormal and persistent fear of growing old.
I’m not sure I’m afraid of growing old, but I’ve sure had my fill of reminders that it’s happening lately, and frankly, I’m struggling to understand where the time went.
By the time you read this, I’ll have gained a fantastic daughter as my son is getting married on Saturday. This is the guy who a minute ago was stashing cookies in his helmet at JFL practice, thus earning his forever nickname. Some of the best times of my adult life involve coaching his baseball and basketball teams, although I doubt that he has such fond memories. He was a decent baseball player, solid in the field but not a slugger at the plate, but good enough to make a couple all-star teams. He played two years of basketball, but his hard work never really paid off with playing time, and besides his one constant obsession was on the gridiron. He worked hard enough to become a starter and earn all-conference honors his senior year, playing for a good playoff team. And now he’s in the nascent stages of his career as a high school history teacher and football coach. Football is still his obsession, but he also knows all the history, and will make a great, patient teacher. His wife, a former college softball player, is beginning her first full year as a teacher and coach as well, and I know she’ll be great. So, from the mighty Chiefs little league team to being a husband, coach and teacher. For him, it feels like it’s just the beginning, while for me and his mom, it feels like an ending of sorts, although I’m excited to watch them grow together in all ways.
Getting old, part II.
Last weekend, I took my youngest offspring to visit her new college digs in Carbondale, where she’ll be moving in August to start her Junior year after graduating from Parkland College. While I’m definitely proud of her for spreading her wings and striking out on her own, did she have to do it 200 miles from home? As we toured her new home, I kept flashing back to all the games I watched her cheer, and all the scout meetings her mom hosted, and her ferocious on-ball defense as a fifth grade hoops dynamo, and so many other great memories. And for six years, the Devilettes consumed most of our January and February weekends. Truthfully, however, being a devilette was a year-round passion for her, with summer workouts leading into fall before ramping up for competition season. I’ve long said that her dance training shaped her desire for perfection in everything she does, which we’ve found to be both blessing and curse. At any rate, she’ll be taking a 4.0 GPA with her to Southern and I have no doubt she’ll find success there as well. I only hope she’s able to strike the balance between success in the classroom and having a social life outside of it. It’s really hard for me to admit, but she’s driving the bus and I’m just along for the ride, now. So maybe I’m suffering from a slight case of Agoraphobia, a condition where people fear they have little control. For three decades, give or take a year or two, I’ve had at least a small sliver of input into my kids’ lives, and now I’m a spectator. As much as it goes against my grain, I guess I’m going to have to realize that I can’t fix all my kids’ problems. Their mom and I have hopefully equipped them with the tools they need, and now it’s time to step back and watch. And besides, it’s only two hours from Mattoon to Carbondale by Amtrak. Not that I’ve been obsessively checking train schedules or anything.