Building a Family

Epiphanies don’t come on command, most arrive without an announcement. Actually, they usually occur silently, under cover, obscured by some other issues. Its only when one has a moment of quiet, when focused on some other issue, that they manifest themselves. Indeed, epiphanies will frequently appear as if they are emerging from a fog instead of exploding into consciousness. My latest one snuck up on me and bit me, though I will not say where.

I had moved to Stockton 2 1/2 years ago from rural Washington State. I knew no one here and had not lived alone since, well never. I am here because its the closest to my daughter and her family in Alameda that I could afford. As time progressed it became apparent that Stockton is an insular city. There are 3 degrees of separation. Most connections between most persons are easy to discover, even if the connection was someone’s neighbor in the 80s. These connections are more evident in my senior age group. Families create many of the connections and relationships, as well as the Central Valley culture, small number of high schools, and even Stockton’s history and negative reputation. Sometimes the prevalent attitudes seems to be us against the reputation.

In this atmosphere my ability to connect with others has been sometimes difficult, sometimes effective. Part of my difficulty was the need to be part of a social group, be included in conversations, in experiences. Since I had no need to develop these skills growing up, I was frequently at a loss as to how to proceed. I found myself vacillating between being intrusive and being hidden. I decided to join some social activities. When I walked into the Senior Center, staff were talking about pickleball, an activity I had experienced a bit 5 or 6 years earlier. I bought an inexpensive paddle and begun play on Fridays. This allowed me to become part of a group with a purpose. I developed more relationships at the center by volunteering for activities that other members chose not to join. All in all I joined 3 other social/educational groups and volunteered for activities, expecting that I could leverage my volunteer activities into more solid connections. My expectations did not come to fruition.

One of the few positive constants for me was pickleball. In addition to playing at the Senior Center, I joined the local athletic club that offered pickleball. In September, I began experiencing severe arthritis, especially in my right shoulder which limited my playing to the Senior Center which was a much less intensive experience allowing me to increase my playing to 3 times a week. I was making friends, developing relationships.

And then the coronavirus attacked. As the requirement for distancing was introduced a friend and I tried to maintain our pickleball play, going so far as to find open tennis courts even if there was no net and hit the ball back and forth. One Sunday, another pickleball devotee and I converged on an abandoned parking lot, set out a court using duck tape, bought a temporary net and began playing. As things stand now, we have two courts. The number of players increased to 18 in the space of 6 months. During this time the athletic club reopened and some of the players moved their play to there. Some went because of the parking lot surface, most because the play was not as intense as they liked. As these players exited their place was taken by folks who had played at the senior center. The population increased to nearly 20 players who were intent on playing. Even though these folks were not at the level of those who left, they were improving as play continued.

Scheduling play was confusing since both the parking lot courts and the group playing at the athletic club used the same list serve. I constructed a new list serve only for those persons playing at the parking lot courts and took parking control of scheduling. I had purchased a net and a former player gifted me hers. We played 4, sometimes 5 days a week averaging 14 players a day. The camaraderie was healthy and pleasant. Play was improving. Even the marginal players had their moments. I felt my position was to provide a venue for these folks to have a place to play at least until the restrictions were lifted or perhaps beyond, and to continue encouragement and instruction.

A week ago, I was standing by one court watching play talking with another player when I blurted out “This is my family!”. The epiphany was I would get what I needed only when I provided for others.

Published by Jack's Mind 15 degrees off center

I am 73 years old retired from Amy Civil Service. Widowed and Legally Separated. B.A. MBA, and ABD. Living in Stockton, Ca. I moved here 24 months ago from Washington State. I knew no one and am just now finding my footing. Time to make amends.

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