It’s Playtime

On a recent weekend I found myself the designated grandchildren adhoc guardian for the afternoon while my wife and daughter went shopping. One hour they told me. Certainly I could handle the responsibility for one hour. Well, Jackson was easy. He lately has been into games of strategy and wanted to play solitaire on my phone and who was I to deny him that. Adela was a bit more of a challenge. She is into role playing, imagination and, as a three year old, silly games.

We began with a game I can only describe as “stay on your island”. She would sidle up against one wall of the hallway and order me to the opposite side. Without warning, she would leap to the opposite side and after several failed attempts, I determined I was to mirror the leap to the other opposite side and anticipate her next leap. This went on for, oh let’s say, longer than I was ready, when Adela eventually announced a new game.

Her new game would involve us throwing balls into the laundry bin, but not until she had ample time spent wearing the laundry bin over her head all the while bouncing off the walls blinded by its canvas sides. This new game of “laundry ball” wound up requiring several trips to the playroom to retrieve additional balls of varying size, “no taking the balls back out Opa.” Though interesting for a short time, it was no where near as fun as wearing the laundry bin and was thus not destined to last long.

After several trips to her playroom, sweet Adela emerged with two super hero costumes. She commanded me to put on the green one. I took one look at what she had rolled up in her hands and plotted my escape from this potentially embarrassing playtime activity. My poorly framed excuse was to announce that there was no way I would fit into whatever it was she had for me. With hands on her hips and a look of scorn that could bring down a charging rhino, she proclaimed, dripping with the sarcasm of a three year old, “It’s just a cape Opa.” Jackson, looking up from his solitaire intelligently affirmed that anyone could fit into a cape and warned me that I was going to do some running. Great, they have teamed up on me and I have become the victim.

After donning my cape and having my mask correctly placed on by Adela, how was I to know it was upside down, I was given my instructions. Over the next fifteen minutes we would circle the rooms of the house chasing away the bad guys as super heroes are destined to do. Up one hallway and down the other, through the kitchen and circle the living room, I was unsure I could last. But, I surprised even myself and managed to keep up with my relay mate, Adela.

As I drove home later that day, I mused on having been an almost seventy year old, playing unashamedly with my granddaughter. I started to think back on my own father and asked myself, did he play like that? Now it is only reasonable that I offer a disclaimer. I was raised on a small dairy farm and my dad barely had time to do much of anything other than run the dairy operation, crop the fields and hold down at least two additional part time jobs in an effort to give my five siblings and I the best life he could. It is hardly fair to have expected him to don a cape and run around the house with us, though I must say in hindsight that he deserved a chance to play and a cape for all he did. My dad instead spent his time teaching us how to manage our time, how to be responsible, and how to fix the things in life that kept seeming to break, lessons I have benefitted from throughout my life. He quietly, for the most part, left the playing to my siblings and I.

I am both happy and proud of the fact that I have the time to play. My generation grew up with parents who had been taught by their parents to work hard, to achieve and to survive, and that left little room for play. Though he may not have “played” with me, my dad taught me to fish, or should I say, he tried to teach me. He encouraged me to find time to do more than he ever had the opportunity to do and he taught me about family, about being there in work or play. And for that, I admire him.

I hope you all find time in your day to play. Play reduces stress and, in the case of chasing a three year old, provides great exercise. It reminds us to stop growing old but rather to grow bold, bold enough to play with a child even if it might make you look silly.

Go put on a cape, don a mask, and let a child fall in love with an oversized, slightly awkward, has to be told the rules, playmate. You just might find your imagination supersized.


It’s an ingrained cultural tradition. We celebrate the passing of time by recording anniversaries. We celebrate New Year’s every year to say goodbye to the past year and to welcome the next. Last year we actually celebrated the passing of 2019 and unwittingly welcomed, yes welcomed, 2020. Of course at the time we were looking forward to a new decade, an election, and of course the Summer Olympics, an event we had waited four years for. No one could have warned us about what was coming. In hindsight, we all likely wish we had just skipped 2020. In truth, we will actually look back at it as a significant anniversary; the anniversary of us navigating a pandemic and accepting cancellation or delay of pretty much every event we ever kept track of.

We mark time by our events, including those we cancelled in 2020, like the Kentucky Derby, The Indy 500, The World Series and so many more. Now I know we didn’t truly cancel most of those but rather we delayed them or moved them to different dates, and does that change their anniversary? If we eventually held them, then the dates aren’t the important issue. It’s that we still celebrated them that counts, even if it was in the new, on the wrong date, socially distanced, crowd limited, everyone masked pandemic style. We will not soon forget this year and it will certainly become its own anniversary; 2020, the year of COVID-19.

And let’s not forget our birthdays. We mark another trip around the sun and vow to make the next one the best we ever had. I personally am going to subtract a year for 2020 and declare a mulligan. Maybe I should strive to live twice as hard next year in an effort to make up for this one. After all, this upcoming birthday is a milestone on its own. Anniversaries remind us of the past, of emotions we had when we were involved in something monumental, not that I remember my emotions on the day of my birth, that would have belonged to my mom and dad. I think the first one I really remember was my sixth birthday and my Howdy Doody party, but I certainly have memories of most of them that followed. Sixteen and getting my driver’s license, twenty-one and proving I wasn’t that grown up, but that’s another story that is best left never told, or twenty-nine when I suspect I finally became an adult, or thirty three when the birth of my first child completely rocked my world and changed me forever. So many years, so many anniversaries.

But I need to go back to twenty-nine. As much as thirty-three changed me, twenty-nine was the year that began that transformation. It was in that year, 1980, that my world began to change. Though I had met Deb three years earlier, this was the year we made a commitment to each other to travel the rest of our life, our anniversaries if you would, as a couple, a partnership in the game of Life. We bought our first home that fall and then on November 15th, 1980, Deb and I were married. With stars in our eyes and nothing but hope to set sail on, we ventured on this journey of making a life together, of perfecting our careers and beginning traditions. Of new cars, vacation trips and adventures in them, of exploring new opportunities, and of starting our family.

And here we are, forty years later, still together, still in love and still planning on the next best year of our life; COVID-19 be damned. As true as it was the day we said “I do”, we can never pretend to know what the future holds for us. But if the past is any indictor, that future will be so worth entering. And just like the forty years that have come before, we will enter it together, hand in hand, loving and trusting each other with every new day we are gifted.

Don’t let set backs, delays or even failures dampen your ability to celebrate those anniversaries in your life. Embrace the opportunity to relive what made them special, what set them apart as a date worth remembering. Let each anniversary remind you of the fullness of life and traditions and then look forward to the next.

This Sunday, if you would, think of us as we celebrate forty years together, and if you have been a part of our life journey, raise a glass in a toast to us. Know that we will certainly be toasting all of you and the roles you have played in our life together. Cheers