Friday, December 25, 2015

Tennis and my mom

So, this might be one of the oddest return-to-blogging posts in history, but as I sit in an airport alone on Christmas, I figured why not take the time to jot some thoughts down. Be forewarned, this post will be a downer, but hopefully, not a total one.

The reason I'm in an airport alone is because my mom died on Christmas morning. If that's not a tough thing to deal with, I don't know what is. She was visiting my sister in Mobile, Ala., and had just gotten into town Christmas Eve. My mom drove over from Georgia, where she'd been living for years on her own. The past few years had not been kind to her at all, health-wise. 

Actually, you know that phrase, "understatement of the year"? Multiply that by 50, and that should be a more accurate summation of that "health-wise" sentence. I guess, if anything, it's good she got to spend some time with my sister and nephews.

Anyway, as I'm waiting for my delayed flight (adding to the roughness of this trip), I figured I'd come here and share a couple stories about tennis, me and my mom. After all, this is a tennis blog!

* I played my first tennis tournament when I was 15. We didn't really know if there was a dress code or anything, but my mom figured I should look the part. So I got a polo shirt and shorts from JC Penney, and the kit looked all right, but it was not functional. At all. This was in the '80s, the height of the "short shorts" era. These shorts were that and then some, and were made of the stiffest material ever. I couldn't move: heck, I could barely fit a ball in my pocket. Tightness--nerves- and shorts-wise--did me in, but in my mom's mind, at least I looked right.

* A little bit later in my playing career, I was playing a first-round match I was a heavy favorite in. Like, it was supposed to be a cakewalk, but I ended up dropping the first set. I couldn't keep a ball in the court. I made eye contact with my mom and she mouthed, "change your racquet." You see, the week before, I had gotten a new model and I obviously hadn't gotten used to it. Luckily, I had one of my old sticks in my bag, I switched to it and breezed through the next two sets. I still consider that one of my biggest and most memorable wins. And I'm glad there was no one roaming the courts looking for coaching going on!

Not just because I'm involved in it, but I've always felt tennis was the most difficult sport out there. You don't have teammates (unless it's doubles) and can't get coaching when you're out there. You're taught something and it's up to you to put your lessons to good use while competing. It's very important to at least have someone out there watching you. I was very fortunate to have that with my mom. Funny: I just played some doubles last Saturday night for fun, talked to her afterward and she asked me how I did. She always did that through the years. 

She was a great "coach," and an even more amazing, wonderful mom. (And that might actually be "the understatement of the year.")


Deborah said...

Thanks so much for sharing these memories. I'm so sorry your mom passed so suddenly my and much too soon. Just from these memories I can tell what a wonderful mother - and coach - she was. Sending you comfort as you mourn her loss. - Deborah

Karen Kirkley said...

Great writing Van. Your mom was a lovely woman. You have been blessed to have her for a mom - Karen