A Knack for Tenacity

Published in THE FLORIDA WRITER April 2023

I came for the laughter
and stayed for the skills.

When an old friend called recently, we picked up exactly where we had left off. Old friendships are like that. Persistent. Tenacious. Addictive.

Since we’d each made a major life transition, the conversation settled into settling in. While Peggy and her husband had renovated an old beach house, my husband and I had built a house from scratch in a 55-plus, active-adult community. How ironic, we concluded, that my husband and I moved in first.

Moving, we agreed, is more than boxes. It’s decorating, meeting new people, and learning new things.

My newest passion, I shared, was beachball volleyball.

“Tell me about it.” As an avid tennis player and a journalist, Peggy urged me on.

A midsummer thunderstorm had driven me from the outdoor lap pool to the indoor one. To my chagrin, however, it was overrun by raucous oldsters batting around a beachball. They were having way too much fun, hooting at shots lost and shrieking at points won.

When we moved here, I had passed on pickleball after watching one game. No doubt, if I had tried it, I would have fallen and I would gotten hurt. Unlike that game, however, if I fell at this one, all I would get was wet.

What whetted my passion, however, was the big, deep, belly laughs. These were serious players, but you can’t help but whoop when you bounce a colorful vinyl ball off a septuagenarian’s bald head or dive like a whale and still miss the shot.

I came for the laughter and stayed for the skills.

The beachball and four feet of water changed all the dynamics of the backyard game I had played in the 1980s. My upper body lacked power, my eye-hand coordination lacked direction, and my camaraderie lacked two-way communication. Yet I stayed with it. I developed a good serve. I bought special shoes. I showed up every week.

Aging experts tell us that learning new things creates neural pathways, increases brain power, strengthens social connections, creates emotional well-being, and ultimately protects against dementia.

Laughter, however, is the best medicine. It stimulates the internal organs, bolsters the immune system, and floods the body with endorphins—those feel-good chemicals that keep you coming back for more.

My new teammates offered advice and complimented good shots, but one sought me out after a game to admire something else. My tenacity.

“At first you couldn’t even hit the ball,” he said. That was quite true. “But you kept coming. And now you’re getting good.”

Peggy immediately reacted to that assessment.

“That’s because they don’t know you,” she said. “When you set out to do something, you accomplish it.”

She, of all people, would know that this wasn’t always true. We took guitar lessons in high school and never got past the first chord progression of “Worried Man.” I also gave up on making bread, never mastered the knack of tatting, and I can’t drop the 20 extra pounds I carry everywhere I go. I’ve never failed, however, to try something new.

See, I made the mistake of believing the fortune cookie that told me if I could imagine it, I could do it. People tell me I’m patient—even stubborn—when I’m learning something new.

I call it tenacity. And I think I’ll keep it!

One response to “A Knack for Tenacity”

  1. Mary Avatar

    that’s what I love about the 55 plus communities, So many options to explore if you choose!

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One response to “A Knack for Tenacity”

  1. that’s what I love about the 55 plus communities, So many options to explore if you choose!

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