Thursday, March 13, 2008

when the lanes were silent

While the 20-somethings start coming in around 10pm in large groups on an outing of their club or dorm floor, the leagues are full of bowling lifers. And while there are a few young folks (30-ish), most everyone is well into 40s and 50s and up. The day leagues are mostly seniors.

When we first started bowling I think we were treated with some skepticism, beginners who really weren't all that serious about competing, but then we stuck around for a winter league then a summer league and winter league again until we became some of the usuals, the leaguers. Many of them bowl twice a week. Alot of them have bowled some 20+, 30+ years. The bowling alley was their hang out place. You see and compete and play with the same people week after week. You wonder what happens to people when they miss a week or two.

This last week, Albany Bowl, lost 3 long time bowlers. One of them in our league. We had heard last week that his partner had found him collapsed and unconscious and that he was at the hospital in a coma. His partner had even come down to the alley last week to let us know what happened. Today we found out he passed away.

When we first played his team, we dreaded them. Fierce and quiet competitors that would quietly and quite deliberately put together a bone crushing game against you. While playing other teams were quite jovial, the silence was deafening with them. After a while, we found out that they were just the quiet types and well they didn't mean to look mean, particularly for him, that's just what his face looked like when it was neutral. The hubby was the first to figure out their funny bones and after that they were a fun team to play with. It was particularly interesting watching Oliver play his always very consistent games as he read the oil and its patterns.

At one point last year, his partner had fallen ill and we didn't see him for a while and didn't see her for quite some time but she returned this season. We had hoped it would have been the same for him.

There have been lots of studies about the number of relationships people have and how the younger generation doesn't join organizations or teams any more and where is out sense of community. And sure it's important to have the handful of really deep connections, but it's also important to have these tangential connections. Bowling league is one of those places where each week, you make your rounds and say hello to everyone, ask how they are doing life wise or bowling wise, compete against each other, and congratulate each other in the end. A few people have brought their grandchildren or children to play. They are small connections. These aren't people I write into my will necessarily, but for a few hours each week, there's a place to put things aside to have fun or be serious. For a few hours you are a community.

And so this evening we spent a moment of silence to honor and pray for those who passed away this week. There were still a few recreational bowlers still rolling balls down the lanes because they had no reason to pay attention to the announcer speaking to the league bowlers. For them the bowling alley, is just a place that could be any other place. But for us, once or twice a week, it's our space.

No comments: