Originally posted March 28, 2012 (and the volleyball court was not the one pictured).
My wife, father-in-law and I were walking out of the Ryan Center at the University of Rhode Island Tuesday night at about 9:30 p.m. after watching Connecticut win the NCAA East Regional Final — by the way, the Ryan Center is a splendid little place to watch a basketball game or three — when we saw people playing volleyball in a gym.
Seeing college kids playing volleyball reminds me of when I was that age, when my weeks during the summer revolved around volleyball. Every Wednesday night, starting back when I was in high school, we gathered at a friend’s house — Chuck, Dan, Dave, Grayson, Vinnie, Jeremy, Renee, Marnie, plus regulars I probably forgot and whoever else showed up from the neighborhood.
We’d play 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 4-on-4, 2-on-everyone else (one of Chuck’s and my favorites) or whatever configuration we came up with.
Pretty much all that could stop us was rain or dark, and we fought both of those as hard as we could, especially the dark. We basically only stopped when we literally couldn’t see at all. It was just pickup volleyball in a backyard in a small town in upstate New York, but it was important to us, both for the competition and the camaraderie.
Then life happened, and it started to break up. Chuck and Jeremy found another group to play with, and I joined them for a little while. They were nice enough, and the volleyball was pretty good, but it wasn’t the same.
Then Chuck died. It was July 2004, not quite two years since he had been an usher in my wedding. After the funeral, we gathered in the backyard of his house, which hosted the volleyball for most of the years we played. I was on a team with Vinnie (Chuck’s brother), and I played one game before my wife and I had to leave, since we lived in Massachusetts by that time.
It’s kind of ridiculous to say I’m “retired” from recreational backyard volleyball, but I’ll be perfectly content if that was the last volleyball game I played.
But back to the kids playing volleyball in the gym at URI. My reaction was a testament to how old I’ve gotten, and not because I couldn’t physically do what they were doing, what I was able to do when I was that age.
After all, that ship has long since sailed. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t run or jump anywhere near like I used to, and now things hurt when I do anything physical.
No, the realization was that if I was a college student and it was my friends in that gym, I would have been on the other side of that window. If, 10 years ago, I had stumbled across or been invited to a game, I probably would have been there.
Five years ago, I probably would have realized that my time for playing had come and gone, but I would have thought what they were doing was pretty awesome.
But last night? The first thought that came to my mind was … “9:30 at night is awful late to be playing volleyball.”