I love among the many wonderful things of this my life, the opportunity I have been allowed to experience; to coach my own boys, and while it can be such a time consuming and often frustrating endeavor, every once in a while the overall picture seems to materialize before me like a subtlety painted masterpiece with its complex strokes and soft scented hues.
The flag football practice progresses to play, as they often do, and play requires a dividing up of teams with a light competitive game being initiated between two opposing groups of friends, sporting in fun and laughing in a gleeful cheer of excited athletic exertion. Often as the numbers may dictate, an odd number of enthusiastic participants requires the aging coach to himself participate, as to make the teams even, and allow a fair competition between these groups to progress, as was here point in case.
It was during this one particular game that I noticed watching, from the distant sideline, the grandfather of a couple of the players on the team. And while he was cautiously observing from the distance, it was evident that he intently watched, for his eye were obviously on the game every moment.
The grandfather quietly moved in, step by step, to see from a closer view. Moving under a tree into the shady end-zone taking a restful vantage point close to the action. Sitting comfortably on the ground next to another observer, one of the mothers of another child playing. He was so close to the play even the expressions could be read on his face from me and the teams only step away. It is so easy to read someone’s face when they are not aware that anyone is watching, and so was it here in this case.
For this grandfather had a look on his face of soft longing, in remembrance perhaps for the days when he himself once played football, for it is known he was quite an accomplished player himself in his youth. All those years ago, when he to not only had the skills of a coach but had the means to facilitate such endeavors, coupled also with the fact he had children to pour out those skills upon. What a gift his leadership skills may have been in the lives of any children, his children?
But there was something else, there was also a shadow of a tear in those eyes, tears for the experience that he never quite had a chance to taste. For this Grandfather was by the worlds standard a rich man. Building his wealth and assimilating power drove him constantly for more, never taking the time to see his own children participate in their own sporting events, let alone take the time to ever coach them, this banquet table he never tasted from. So when other fathers were going to games, watching or coaching their children’s practice in blissful cheer, he was staying late in the office, or out having business drinks with other men, and women. Seeking the same satisfactions their money and power bought them, and these activities had little if anything to do with building a family, as they would often contend, even lie to themselves, or their wives and families, those families waiting at home, waiting.
Then suddenly a blink or a nod later, a little time passes, his children are grown, have children of their own, and they too are growing, needing experienced coaches, parents, and grandparents to spend some of these precious gifts they so abundantly receive, with them. But now he is too old, or is he?
It’s not that he is old, he is like many “so-called” rich men only concerned with one thing; holding onto the worthless golden calf he has sacrificed so much of his own life to build and possess. Now all the old man can do is consume his time with worrying about; “how not to lose” what he has so fanatically accumulated through his life. All these things, these worthless pieces of junk, the zero’s on the ledger, the sand slipping through his fat fingers, like some fat greedy old cat trying so desperately to hold all the sand in his corner of the litter box. Eyes gray and shadowed from the blindness of years staring into the brightness of hells flame, looking at those things he so desperately craves, those people he lusts after. He sits bent over angry and clawing at it, hands bowed in arthritic greed with the rake like talons, pulling it desperately close, just to see it slip through his old smoke-stained fingers like flowing rivers of dirty piss drenched sand. Sands draining through the hourglass, time lost, flowing like a river away and forever out of sight, cascading down in a whirlpool of dark hungry doom.
Jokingly I say to him; “come in and switch with me, I need a sub” but he just looks at me in bewilderment almost incomprehension, leaving me to wonder if he heard me at all. Little did I know until later contemplation, what an opportunity I was actually presenting to him?
Practice is over and I watch the two boys go with their grandfather, again, jokingly, I say to him; “I asked you to sub for me, I needed a break and thought you could come in and take my spot for a moment”. He looks at me in confusion and responds; “you don’t need a sub, you need more players, you need more depth.”
Confused myself at first by this statement, I explain that this is only a flag football team and has only five players on the field at any one time, so we only have eight players on our whole team. And while he is clearly confused he suddenly realizes the irony of his own statement, the clarity of recognition unfolds across his face; we not only have plenty of players but what he witnessed as a poor and tattered team, suddenly made sense and was actually rich having all we need. This team size ensures all the boys play as much as they want. Abundance is not depth or wealth, but having the ability to actually spend precious moments on the field with these kids, in and around their lives, time well spent, this is true wealth!
It was then I saw the second look on his face, one look more of his emotions, his bodily movements; the slumping of his shoulders, the heavy burden he has carried so long, one that just presses him now down, down to the earth. I see his soul; aged, worn down, consumed with a realization, maybe this whole life of accumulating things, the consequential desperateness of clawing at them, the crazed fear they may slip away, the hoarding, the grabbing of others’ possessions, the sand meant for others around him and not himself, his never ending neurosis to use other peoples sand as to not use his own vast pile, how this use of a life does not represent a life of accomplishment, but one of missed opportunity, one of “Un-Accomplishment”. I see such a burden of sadness and failure, it makes me sad for him, for I know this man well and he had such potential, “So much was given”.
Is there nothing worse than an Un-Realized, Wasted, or Un-Accomplished Life? How sad when it ends and all the sands dry out to finally scatter to the wind. Does anyone ever remember the cat that sat on his pile of sand in his corner of the box, long following or even moments after the sands blow away?
What is accomplishment anyway, what is satisfaction in life? Is it merely how big of a pile can one sit on, or is it using every grain of sand we have been blessed with, to bless everyone else around us, thus blessing ourselves in the process. Is it putting every drop of water into circulation, rather than leaving them to stagnate?
Putting all we have into life, leaving none to die.
“I do thank God for the sand he gave me, and the opportunity I have to share it with my wife, my children, my friends.”
“We are all at various times of our live’s “Fat Cat’s” and engaged in crazy acts of selfishness, but I pray I use the time I have been given for living, and witnessing life, coaching, seeing the gifts that manifest all around us, spending my few small specks of sand with others, and the wisdom of not just sitting on these until I die.”
by Peter Colla