We hopped on a jet plane yesterday and flew west. Specifically, we came to El Paso to be part of my dad's 90th birthday celebration. He knew my older brother Jerry and his wife Carol were coming, but we thought we were a surprise. He claims otherwise. At any rate, we're happy to all be together to celebrate this milestone in his life.
He's not the stereotypical 90-year-old man; far from it. He takes care of his own house and laundry, drives better than many half his age and bowls in a league every Wednesday. And since today was Wednesday, we went to watch and cheer him on.
Bowling has been a life-long hobby of his and he's pretty good at it. He's got rings for both a 300 and a 299 game in the past as well as having bowled a 800 series. He'd be quick to tell you, however, that those were in his glory days. He broke an ankle several years ago and can't slide anymore to deliver the ball quite like he'd like. And then, of course, there's that darned calendar where the months and years fly by. He bowls for fun now, not fretting over the scores and enjoying the camaraderie of time spent with others who love the hobby.
We had plenty to cheer about in the first game this morning when he strung four strikes together and rolled a 213 game. Best game he'd had in a while, he proclaimed with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
And he gave us plenty of reason to clap and holler in the second game too, again posting four strikes in a row but upping the final score to 237. His bowling buddies all began to accuse him of showing off for his company. He beamed and said he didn't know where it was coming from but we might need to stay around for the next three weeks to motivate him to finish the league season like this.
The third game started with a strike. And then another. The string soon reached five, then six, then seven. And each time the pins all fell down, our clapping and shouting got louder. As he stepped up on the lane in the eigth and ninth frames, the size of the crowd behind him grew and so did the cheers as he rolled two more strikes.
The entire bowling alley grew noticeably quieter as he picked up his ball to bowl the tenth frame. Teams were still competing on adjacent lanes but they paused to see just what Dad was going to do. A strike. And then another strike. And then the final ball. One more strike would be a perfect game...but it was not to be. It was a hair light, felling just eight of the ten pins.
In the movies the old bowler would probably bowl the 300 game in front of his visiting family, but we felt no disappointment in this real-life ending. We're incredibly proud that Dad is still as active and able to enjoy such a physical activity at any level. To see him bowl a 298 just two days short of his 90th birthday thrilled us beyond belief. And judging by the hugs and backslaps he got, it thrilled a lot of his bowling buddies too. I heard one of the men standing behind me remark to another that he hoped he'd be able to do something like that when he was ninety. Don't we all.
Congratulations, Dad...way to kick off your 90th birthday celebration! And what a treat to be here to see it.