At our family reunion this summer, in a storage closet of our Bear Lake house, someone found an old chart on which I (Richard) had listed various sports and athletic activities with prizes offered to any of the kids who could beat me at them.
It made us think back to all of the friendly competitions we’ve had at our summer reunions over the years. There were about 30 contests listed on the chart, everything from small things like a steak dinner for anyone who could beat me in a standing broad jump, to some medium things like new water skis for anyone who could out ski me on a slalom course, to some pretty big things like a trip to the U.S. Open for anyone who could beat me at tennis.
Back when we made the chart, the kids were small — only two or three of them had reached their teens, and I was still fairly close to my prime. It seemed impossible that they would ever beat me in any of the contests.
The funny thing about finding it now, after all these years, is that all the kids can now beat me at all of the listed activities with the single exception of tennis, where my wiles and intimidation still hold sway.
Most of the kids had long since collected the prizes for beating me, but a couple of them hit me up for things they had won but not yet been paid. The whole thing got me thinking about the passage of time and the transitions we all go through as we get older — transitions that are not such a bad thing after all — a transition from the athletic to the aesthetic.
From Athletic to Aesthetic (A Poetic Rationalization)
I used to ski all out,
Tight turns, fast through the bumps —
It was a race even when I was by myself.
Same on the water, hard cuts —
Shoulder skimming the surface.
When on a horse, a trot and a canter
Were just ways to get to a full gallop,
And tennis was all about topspin and power.
Then one day on the lake, I slowed down and
My boys said, “You’re losing it, Dad.”
And I said, as an excuse, “No, no, this is new, it's called aesthetic water skiing.”
That winter I applied the same principle to snow —
Wide, smoothly carved turns and awareness of the grandeur as I passed,
Let those fast kids save me a place in the lift line.
Had I lost a step?
Or had I gained an eye and a new set of senses?
Give the horse his head and take your time. See the saddle as
A higher perch from which to appreciate the mountains.
On the court a deep slice or disguised drop shot
Spelled off the hard drive,
And variety added pleasure.
I began thinking more about creating than competing.
It became a steady progression from athletic to aesthetic.
Sails and wind were better than motors and fumes.
Nordic replaced Alpine,
And trail rides instead of beach gallops
And I learned that patience and variety of shot can often beat power.
After all, why do it at all
If it’s not for the beauty and the joy?
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."