I wrote the reflection, below, in July of 1991. I haven’t changed the text, just cleaned-up up the typing errors and added the image. The context? Last week, I went back to school – LLM grad school, so there’s my “legal miscellany” connection – for the first time in 32 plus years. Other than that it was a different school in a different millennium, it was as if I’d never left. I’m sure that means something.
April has stopped being the cruelest month for me. August has taken over.
I went back on the ice today for the first time in three months. It was a pleasure, and it wasn’t: a pleasure to be back at something that’s been part of my life for 36 years, now, since I was 5, and as far back as I can remember; not a pleasure to be unable to do all the things that came naturally just a few months ago. That will change. It always has. Each time I go back on – in summer we skate once a week: the has-beens, the still-ares, and the never-weres though that is irrelevant to each of us for whom hockey, in different ways, is an essential part of what we are – the ability comes back. It is still there, waiting to be reawakened. The body knows, and remembers, and as the weeks progress the memory returns more easily. But each year I wonder if this is the year all that will change; if this is the watershed. Each time I repeat the cycle of time off and return. It has been my practice for the past ten years or so to put the equipment away for most of April, May and June to take a vacation from the sport, then resume skating weekly in July. I wonder whether my initial difficulties are simply the rust of inactivity, or the first noticeable encroachment of age.
I know age must be a factor but if so it is incremental. I’ve never been able to say: “last year I could do that but this year, just a few months later, I can’t.” Yet, there are pictures of me taken about 7 years ago, stretched out to a degree that I can’t now repeat. I know, because I’ve tried.
I suppose the problem is that there is nothing that I can no longer do that I once did; it’s simply that the extent which I can do has lessened. I’ve never noticed it from year to year, because today is not yet significantly different from yesterday; yet the limitations are clearly noticeable if I compare what I can do now to what I could do a few years ago. But, if I was asked when I lost any part of the skills which I clearly have lost, I am lost for an answer. I can’t point to anytime and say “there it is, before that I was able”, yet the difference is there.
I wonder how it will feel – no, I wonder how I will feel – the first time I am forced to concede that it is no longer the rust that I can clean off, leaving me still able to function at a level that is indistinguishable from yesterday’s, from last season’s, in any meaningful sense; but the limitation of age or infirmity which does leave me realizing the difference. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve been injured badly enough at the sport to have been shelved for 1/2 year stretches; and the recovery was physical hardship and mental agony, but I always had in front of me the realization that, if I worked at it hard enough, I’d recover. And I did. But one does not recover from age and, rail or not, it will come.
It’s now Sept 2007. Of course, that time came. That picture was taken in 1986. I retired in 2001.