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Cam Marston on Getting Older

On this week’s Keepin’ It Real, Cam Marston tells us about an organ recital he attends with his friends each week. It’s…not what you think.

The pickle ball bug has bitten. A buddy put together a group of guys all about the same age to play each Wednesday evening not long ago. We all showed up, most of us knew each other, debated the rules for a while, and we got started. It’s now a regular thing.

Each time we gather we shake hands, we catch up and bit, and each of us, whether we’re asked or not, goes through what’s called The Organ Recital. It’s a part of what happens when men of a certain age or older gather. Maybe women, too, but I can only speak to what the men do. We talk about what hurts on our body, how well or poorly we’ve been sleeping, who we know that is sick. We talk about digestion, about what foods are kind to us and which ones we struggle with, which spices upset our stomach, which medicines help and which ones don’t seem to do anything at all. It’s the Organ Recital. It doesn’t last long. Usually someone says, “Hey, enough. We sound like old men. Let’s play,” and that ends it, and then we start putting on knee braces, patella tendon straps, and tendonitis sleeves. It’s so sad.

My father has a golf group that has set up rules around their Organ Recitals. He and his buddies have played golf every Friday morning for the past decade or more. Their rule is that once the last putt falls into the cup on the first hole, the organ recital must end. It’s a rule they’ve all embraced. However, my father says, many of his friends are now nearly deaf and they keep giving their organ recitals anyway because they can’t hear anyone telling them to stop. It’s the rare privilege of the hard of hearing – not being able to hear when you’re being admonished.

My dad is quite the pickle baller himself. He plays several days a week at the Via Senior Center in Mobile. He’s got a regular crowd, and they pair up to play, and then they swap teams, and they do it for hours; men and women. He invited me a few weeks back. I guessed I’d be the youngest person there, which was true, and that I’d have an unfair advantage because of that, which was untrue. I got my tail beaten repeatedly. These so-called seniors are savage pickle ball players, and what they may lack in speed they make up with precise ball placement. At one point my 85-year-old father and I were playing together, and across the net was an 83-year-old lady and her sixty-ish year-old daughter. Father son versus mother daughter. The mom had a wicked serve and at any time could place the ball within a millimeter of wherever she wanted it. My dad and I just barely won, and I walked off the court laughing at the thought that my youth – which is very relative – would create any advantage.

At some point in the match, I lunged for a well-placed shot from the 82-year-old mother and pulled something in my lower back. I soldiered on, unwilling to admit to myself that an 82-year-old was making a fool of me on the pickle ball court. I, of course, dutifully reported my injury the next week at my pickle ball group’s Organ Recital. But when asked about the opponent who did this to me, I kept things a bit vague.

I'm Cam Marston, and I'm just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.