The Legend of Eagle Grandpa

A couple of years ago, I told the story of when I learned not to be “That Guy”.

The short version is that I was standing at an ATM when someone was hit by a car, and being EMT certified at the time, I was going to finish up my transaction and go attend to the gentleman – basically hold him still and ask questions while someone called 9-1-1. In the couple of seconds it took for me to retrieve my card and turn around, there was already another fella doing exactly that, in as calm a manner as I could have or better. So, looking around to see a light crowd already forming, I figured it was best to leave rather than further congest the scene. However, there was one dude, who was hellbent on involving himself. He had long hair, sandals, and a loose backpack, and he was throwing himself at cars on the insistence that traffic in the area needed to stop. He even tried chasing one down the road in those dorky-ass sandals to get his point across.

Moral of the story: If there’s no meaningful way you can contribute to the resolution of a situation, then the best thing you can do is not get in the way. But whatever you do, don’t be that guy.

Well, a couple of months ago, I mean a new Guy.

We were in Texas visiting my fiancee’s parents, and one of our days there was spent going to her cousin’s college basketball game. Now, I’d been to basketball games before – heck I’d been in a couple – but they had all been high school level or lower. I didn’t really see any reason why a collegiate basketball game would be any different.

Boy howdy, was I ever wrong, sorta.

It was a home game for Amanda’s cousin, and as the visiting team is getting introduced, it’s a pretty ho-hum affair. “Introducing first, Point Guard for the Wherever They’re From Raptors or Something, #5, Jimmy What’s-his-Butt.” You got a weak smattering of applause from what sparse crowd there was, and this repeated for the other four starting players. But when they started introducing the Home team…


The lights when down, spotlights began tracing the arena, music blared, and the announcer turned their mic way the hell up. It was like we got teleported straight to the middle of an NBA scrimmage game or something, and the announcer’s bias was…well, he wasn’t hiding it.

“Now, welcome to the court – he’s lean, he’s mean, he’s a divine blend of American steel and sex appeal, hung like a horse and has got a bright future – your Point Guard of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Cruuuuusaaaaadeeeers, #11! Johnny “God-Given” Griffin!!”

It was nuts.

The game was pretty great, too. Fast, competitive. A fun affair all around.

But the whole time the teams battled back and forth, I couldn’t help notice one guy. He was a spectator like us, older, and was sitting courtside beside one of the hoops in a fold-out chair with a straight posture and his arms crossed in front of him the whole time. He must have been someone’s grandpa or coach or something. Maybe he had a lot of money riding on the game, I don’t know, but he was less watching the game for fun and more examining the game with the intensity of a diving eagle.

Good thing he was, too, because while the offense was on his side of the court, a pass went wide and rocketed his way. And when I say “rocketed”, I do mean that this basketball crossed space with the speed of a bullet, and it flew straight at Coach Intense Eagle Grandpa.

This guy…doesn’t even flinch.

And he probably does kung fu.

This basketball flies at his face with enough speed to challenge the sound barrier, and in the half-moment it takes for the ball to reach him, his hands are out in front of him catching it a few inches from his nose. It was like when the hero in a cheesy martial arts movie catches the sword between their palms. It was rad. He does this, holds it for a quarter-second, and bounce passes it back onto the court like nothing happened.

THAT’S the guy you want on your team, giving you advice, or setting an example when the shit hits the fan. When a situation arises, don’t be a Loose Backpack. Be an Eagle Grandpa.

Making My Worry Work for Me

I guess I’ve just been in this sort of mood lately to ruminate on and dispense advice nobody asked me for.

I try not to complain. And by that I do mean in general, I’m not much of a complainer. It’s a habit that has some merit, but also means I wind up enduring a lot of stuff that I might not have to, otherwise. Let me explain.

It isn’t born from a spineless attitude, some sort of head-hung-low, “Okay, whatever you say, sorry,” disposition. As a little kid, I grew up in a house that saw more than its fair share of shouting and violence, and through life – like we all do at times, I imagine – have been surrounded by people with short fuses. And the takeaway, thank God, wasn’t that “shouting is totally the way to assert yourself and get things done so people know you’re not a push-over,” but that anger is ugly, more often than not. Really ugly. And if nothing else, I’m a creature of vanity, so I want everything to do with charm and nothing to do with ugliness.

That said, I have had two times in recent memory (meaning probably a dozen years) that I’ve shouted while beside myself. Once was while playing Settlers of Catan and Micah skyrocketed ahead to seven Victory Points and so I built my road up to try and close the gap a little bit for the rest of us but then Alan blocked me because “You got longest road last time” and even when I diverted he did it again even though the ONLY resources I was sitting on were Lumber and Brick so what the hell else was I gonna do, but he still felt super justified despite the fact that Micah had more than the three of us COMBINED, like are you kidding me with that f*cking STUPID lack of tactical awarene-……

Anyway, and the second time was at a doctor smugly refusing to help a loved one.

I’d say both were equally justified.

Patience is a virtue, and it’s one that all too uncommon these days, it seems; and so it’s one that I strive for with my utmost. I feel like with patience comes integrity, comes dignity, and comes a certain amount of peace. Not that it’s easy, at all. In fact, paired with a relatively undying sense of optimism, it can be pretty exhausting. It’s tiring to know that against whatever the odds may be, I’ll still hope; and even when those hopes have been dashed time and time again, know that beneath it all my core head will still insist that there’s a way for whatever it is I’m hoping for to work, and I’ll endure it quietly throughout the process.

I’ve blown a few gaskets, but still together, mostly.

And on the whole, I do find that honey wins more than vinegar. Gratitude wins out over attitude. Resilience beats out rage. Patience trumps pettiness.

But it is not easy, though some that know me have told me it seems that way.

Harkening back to the aforementioned vanity, yeah, when I’m told that I’m always such a cool cucumber, I lean into it because it feels sexy, but I’m human as hell, which means I still plague myself with nightmares of what could go wrong. All the time. I imagine those things I don’t want to have happen: people or pets dying, running out of money, losing a place to live, on and on and on. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (if you haven’t heard of it, check it out) defines the form they often strike me as Nighthawks. I can have a peaceful, happy day, and as soon as my head is on the pillow at night, I think of how one day I’ll have to eulogize my mother, or might outlive my partner and bear the burden of dying alone, or wrestle with my own mortality if I ever get cancer and just hope I’m loved enough that people will miss me…

You get it.

But what I try to do, since those things sound way too ‘woe is me,’ is think past them and, well, game plan, essentially. A recent example…

The topic of moving out of state has come up a lot recently. If you haven’t heard, California is expensive as balls, which makes prospect-building here rather low. With those talks, there are certain familial concerns that have to be taken into account before we could move anywhere, and my brain ran the Worst Case Scenario simulation, like this:
Theoretically, the strain of those familial obligations could be too much to bear for my partner and I, leaving us feeling anchored and without options and whereupon it’s ultimately what kills our relationship, and they breaks things off with me. Say that, a month or so after that, the family member in question passes away of health complications, leaving me with another set of pieces to pick up alone. Cherry on top would be that said partner hears of this and is so taken with grief and moreover guilt they take their own life. In a span of weeks, my life is turned upside down and my life loses two of its cornerstones.

It was a rough day.

But, mental/emotional nightmare that all that imagining was, I didn’t let it stop there. Much as it twisted my stomach and hollowed my heart, I made like an amateur improv artist and “Yes, and’d” the thought. If all that were to happen, take a few minutes to sit in how that felt. For a little while, look out at the scenery as if that was the world I knew at present. In a sense, pretend or fake myself into thinking that was the case I had to contend with…what would I do? How would I behave, what would that change about me? What prospects would I be left with, what options would I have then?

I was forced to admit it would probably change a few things about me – my personality, my tolerance for certain things, what I would choose to do with myself. But there was a certain amount of comfort that came from three things. Firstly, that was damn-near a worst of all worst case scenarios, and in a very facsimile-style sense, I’d lived through it; like I’d had a practice run of living in it. Secondly, when my car had issues later that day, it was no big deal at all. In fact, mentally putting yourself through the worst your anxiety can conjure makes small potatoes out of a lot of other problems.

Lastly- well’p, I’ve mentioned before a few times here that I’m a UFC fan. And any fellow combat sports fans on here would probably know the name Nick Diaz if I said it. I found a quote of his that actually sums up my third point a bit better than I would put it:

“Other people are always- you know they wanna think about the positive, don’t think
about the negative. And I believe that thinking about the negative is kinda- you know
a way of cancelling out all these possibilities one by one. Cause the odds are I’m
not gonna guess what’s gonna happen, but if I can guess every scenario gone wrong,
then um, you know, maybe, I can change the outcome.”
-Nick Diaz

It’s sort of that age-old bit of work advice: Don’t mention problems if you see them, mention problems and solutions. If you see a busted pipe and go, “Huh, that’s a busted-ass pipe,” that hasn’t really done much. Actually, it hasn’t done sh*t. But if you see a busted pipe, find someone, and say, “Hey, this pipe is busted. Should we turn off the water, do you know where the valve is?” Or, “Do you know who could replace this thing?” then you’re already a billion lightyears ahead of the first example.

My point is simply that if you play the “What if?” mind games that WE ALL DO, but let it stop there, that’s when it hurts you. WE ALL run the “What if X bad thing happened?” – some more than others, absolutely – and f*ck me, make no mistakes that it is not easy at all, but gee golly I’ve found it helpful.

Dunno. If nothing else, the next time you get hit with the Worry Hammer, try pressing forward a little bit. It ain’t painless, but it beats the hell out of building a world in your head of things that want to go badly for you and giving yourself no options.

Best of luck, all.