In April, I fell and broke two of my fingers. The doctor looked them over and assured me that “they’ll be OK.” Three months later, they’re better. They’re OK.
When I was younger, my fingers were nearly perfect. I caught everything that came my way. I tipped in missed shots for baskets. I crept toward home plate and dared batters to hit it by me.
I told stories, and taught classes, and made friends, and made a few people fall in love with me with my words -- and with my hands.
“Good hands!” my teammates said. “Beautiful hands,” my wife said.
And it wasn’t just my hands. When I was younger, I flew down flights of stairs in two or three effortless, arrogant leaps. I took off on manic, spontaneous sprints – from the car to the front door; from first base to third base; from one side of the boulevard to the other; through torrential rains and blistering heat. I launched my body after line-shots and off of lakeside cliffs, unconcerned about how I’d land.
I could read the road signs, and the fine print, and the look on your face from miles away.
I was the new guy, the young guy. Full of potential.
Over time, of course, I accumulated some wrinkles and dents and aches. A bummer, for sure but, for a while, this slow decline wasn’t so bad. In a way, it highlighted how much I had left. I’d score a couple of hoops, or sprint up the stairs, and every-so-often someone would say: “You’re 42? Really?” Not too bad, for my age.
But now, way past 42, my fingers are crooked and a little swollen. And my left hip hurts. And my eyesight isn’t very good. And I didn’t sleep very well last night.
And Katherine, who is made like Wonder Woman, has an achy knee, an achy back, and a couple of sore fingers of her own. My sturdy brothers and friends all seem to limp a little bit. In meetings, on phone calls, at lunch, and on saunters across campus they grimace and twist their necks, hoping for a little relief. So do I.
There’s much more meaningful work left to do; much more than I’ll have time for. There are many more rich conversations, fits of laughter, and provocative surprises ahead. Many more stories to write with my imperfect fingers. So, I’ll grimace, twist my neck, do a little stretching, and move ahead -- with gratitude, when I can muster it. I’m not sure what else I can do.
And my fingers are OK. Pretty good, actually.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who are 100 years old, seem to have gotten much of this long ago. Mick and Keith remind me that I can’t let this – all the opportunities and dangers that remain – “slide through my hands.” And when my denial about all of this wears thin, and the panic rises and then passes, I’ll try to remember: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
This is, of course, awfully trite. And I’m not sure that it is true. But I’ll proceed as if it is.
But first, before we start…where are my f-cking glasses?