Over the years, my 3 brothers and I have brought our families together most summers for a week at the beach. It used to be in Rhode Island (Misquamicut Beach – repository of many summer memories when WE grew up), but in recent years, we’ve gathered at the Jersey Shore. Long Beach Island, to be specific. In fact, if you drive down the main road in Beach Haven Crest, take a left on 76th street, and go a couple blocks, you’ll be on the beach…and there, last evening, you would have seen a volleyball net up, and two generations of players doing battle together in the sand.
The old-timers – Paul, John, Steven, and Tom – still game for the competition, but now a step or two slower, a bit stiffer at the net, not quite as agile as we once were. And suddenly, the new generation – who used to barely be able to get a ball over the net, now making acrobatic dives on the soft beach, and driving spikes into the midst of our softening reflexes. Ungrateful wretches!
Yes, we occasionally best them at the net, make our share of nasty serves, and dive for impossible shots, even miraculously preserving volleys in a flailing effort to deny the march of time and gravity, and recover lost youth. But it is not to be. Those who once had to be sheltered for their toddler naps on the sand now have the vigor and independence that we so fondly remember, but which seems now so distant. One 18-year old nephew even had the audacity to finally beat me in arm-wrestling, shredding the final thread of remaining uncle-dignity. Ungrateful wretch!
But these ungrateful wretches who now begin to overshadow us are why we’ve poured our our time and effort parenting over the years. The future is leaping and diving and spiking on that sand. Just as their grandmother now enjoys the love and care of her grown sons, so will we soon come to rely on our adult-leaning offspring, who teeter at the edge between aggravation and productivity.
I wish I could be young in body and seasoned in mind, together, right now, and stretching on into the future. But it cannot be. The spike is being passed, and the youth that I can re-live has to be vicarious, through five boys who now get their shot at life. The ungrateful wretches will one day be grateful, will one day look upon their own children on the beach and marvel at how time has passed, and one day will be a step slower on the volleyball court. But not now. They are reaching their peak, and I can still play on the same court for a while longer. And hopefully spike one down their throats one more time tonight!