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These Are the Best of Times

tbutler

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We're back in our winter campground. Southern Texas calls us back each winter. It could be the warm weather. It might be the wonderful people. Maybe it is just the memory of winters in colder climes that makes us feel as though we are cheating mother nature staying where it is warm (remember, warm is a relative term). As I write this our temperature is 50oF while much of the central US is facing a night of negative temperatures.

Here in our park we have an active group. I fell in with the tennis crowd in my first year. Nothing is more fun for me than playing with and learning from players who are better, quicker, faster, hitting harder than I. I learned that from my father who taught me to play croquet, table tennis and baseball. My father was a fierce competitor and always had a good sense of humor about it all. He enjoyed playing games from Monopoly and pinochle to those mentioned above. Dad never threw a game, he always gave it his all. My parents were fast friends with Dutch and Anna Mae Lightman. We would go visit them and while we played with their children, they would play pinochle. As we played we could hear them in the kitchen. Dad and Dutch would razz each other as they pulled off a particularly good hand. Laughter roared from both as the evening went on. That is how Dad played all games. I was in my 40's before I began to beat him at table tennis. I played table tennis with him for much of my life and never won but I learned to play well.

Slowly I've been learning to play tennis and improving even as I grow older. I had several years of limited activity. In 2010 I had my right shoulder repaired, the torn rotator cuff was repaired. That was followed by total knee replacements for both knees in 2011. This summer I had cataract surgery for both eyes. Now I can swing the racquet, chase the ball and even see what is going on! My game is better than ever. Earlier this week I had a rare day. Playing with some of the best players in the park, I dominated the court. We rotate partners, playing with each other player on the court for one of three sets. Each player who played with me that day won that set.

We have friends who have tickets to the concert series in McAllen. They had to be out of town for the November concert so they gave their tickets to us. We enjoyed an evening at the Community Center Auditorium being entertained by Pavlo, a Canadian entertainer of Greek ancestry. His group, three string instruments and a percussionist played a variety of Mediterranean music. I had to laugh, they would excite the crowd and get everyone clapping to the music but as soon as they quit clapping on stage the clapping died out in the audience. I looked at the crowd during intermission and mentioned to Louise the preponderance of gray hair in the audience. This audience was so different from the people in our park. We have many people who would be clapping all through the whole number.

One of our golf friends will celebrate his 90th birthday this month. Lester still plays every week unless the weather is too cold. Several years ago he started playing from the senior tees when a friend of his also began playing those tees. Before that he toughed it out with the rest of us playing from the regular mens tees. Two years ago he got a hole-in-one, the first in his life. A couple who bicycles with our bike ride group regularly also ride about 10 miles making circuits in the park. Mary Anne has had diabetes since her childhood and keeps moving and exercising regularly to ward off the effects of this debilitating disease. Another friend had a heart valve replacement several years ago, had a heart attack this summer at the time of his wife's death. Bob bought a Harley and is riding with the regular motorcycle group. Laura is recovering from back surgery. She and her husband had planned to be at the FMCA Convention in Gillette, WY this spring but her back surgery intervened. She has struggled back from the surgery and though their arrival in south Texas was delayed, she is here now and getting better each day. These are my hero's. They are people who have managed to maintain their health despite setbacks and advanced age.

Occasionally I rent an airplane at the McAllen airport and go flying just for the fun of it. Several weeks ago I took a fellow pilot with me. New to the park, staying for a month, he flies in Canada. We connected immediately with our interest in aviation. They have joined us for our weekly bicycle ride and we have played several rounds of golf with them as well. One of the hallmarks of our park is the immediate and warm welcome that newcomers enjoy. Invitations to participate in activities inundate people when they arrive. Getting them involved in various activities brings them into the family of friends in the park. Frequently casual visitors become regular visitors and return each winter for longer and longer periods. Many, like us, become residents and stay for as long as they are able.

There are enough activities in the park that no one can take part in them all. We have our bicycle ride friends, our golf friends, our bowling friends and more. Louise enjoys the park theatrical performances, I prefer karaoke. She plays cards with several different groups of ladies, I'll spend my days volunteering on behalf of the Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalist at nature parks here in the RGV. We are both thankful that we are in good health and able to be as active as we are. One of the down sides of living in a retirement community is watching your friends age and their health deteriorate. We all know that this happens to everyone. Knowing this makes us appreciate even more our good fortune.

For us, these are the best of times.



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