Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time to put the tennis stuff away...sigh

Donna and Deb. R, standing, and me and Deb D., kneeling, on the court
in Longmeadow, Mass., earlier this month.

When you're on the disabled list, it helps to try doing at least a little bit of what you enjoyed before you were sidelined. Some things come easier than others. When I was zonked out from medication, I felt at least a little bit like myself by reading a book, even if I dozed in and out. If you like board games (which I don't), or if you like watching movies (which I do), you can modify those activities to fit your energy level and concentration.

It's a little harder if it's a sport like tennis that you love.

Sometimes in the hospital I practiced my swing (sans racquet), just to help my arm remember the movement. Back home after my transplant in June, I swung the real racquet and sometimes bounced a ball on it. But it wasn't like doing the real thing. When I took my first walks around the lake and passed the Mount Holyoke tennis courts, I was motivated by hearing that lovely sound of balls hitting the soft spot. Sometimes, though, I took another route because I was just so upset that I wasn't able play yet.

Soon enough, I was out there trying for my umpteenth comeback. I was lucky that the weather held for a long time. We took the photo above just a few weeks ago. I managed to play outside into the beginning of November. Now, with temperatures below freezing, I have finally put my stuff away for the season.

Everyone has moved inside, but I can't follow because I still don't go into public places without a mask. One of my teammates asked if I thought I could try playing a match while wearing a mask, but the answer is a clear no. Sometimes while I am waiting in the clinic, my face heats up inside my mask so much that I begin to feel feverish. I couldn't imagine running around that way.

I was lucky enough to have friends who put up with me while I regained my tennis legs (and swing) in the summer and who played outside so late in the season that some of us even wore gloves. I am lucky that it was (and is) always more than a tennis game, with time for sharing stories, making jokes and having bagels or a cold drink or a popsicle after.

I was lucky that our coach, George, below left, hit with me once a week, imparting his wisdom about spins and slices and, oh my, forehand and even backhand loops.

My friends Joe and Chip put up with me when I first got out there; I hit a lot into the net and only tried for balls that were hit right to me. My friend Ken played singles with me and even told me where to stand after he served. He told me that I won fair and square, but how many matches do you get to play where your friend makes sure you hit a winner back?

Besides the friends in the photo, other members of our tennis family -- Korby, Nancy, Jeanne and Gail -- played doubles with me outside all summer and well into the fall. They didn't patronize me, but they did make sure that I stopped when I was tired.

It felt great to sling my tennis bag over my shoulder, grab my water and sunglasses and feel like my old self, and to focus on hitting the ball to the exclusion of everything else.

I guess that soon enough I'll be able to go inside or, when it gets warmer, play outside again. In the meantime, maybe I'll think about trying to go for a little run...unless I can convince them to play in the snow, but somehow I don't think so, even though there is a lot of love going around with that yellow ball.


Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

You express yourself so eloquently.

I can't help thinking how everyone is off the courts because of the weather (versus only you being off the courts despite lovely weather, because you are too weak or because you are in the hospital). Hopefully this notion will make the current loss - and it's still a loss - a little less painful.

Can you do anything to build up your arms and legs in preparation for an outstanding comeback in Spring 2009?

With hope, Wendy

PJ said...

Go for the run!

Ronni Gordon said...

Thanks, Wendy
I'm trying to lift some weights and do some yoga at home, but I'm inconsistent because it's not that much fun!

PJ, I just ordered new running shoes. My heel is starting to hurt a little with all the walking I've done in the old pair.

Dorothy S. said...

I love your writings and I admire your courage. Have a happy Thanksgiving!