For the Love of the Game

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At the basement of our house in Sampaloc Manila, my father set up a basketball hoop for me to play in. The goal was set low and I think it was probably only 7-foot high. For a pre-school kid, that was the perfect height. It was there that I learned to dribble, do a lay-up, and shoot jump shots. Later on, I honed my skills more when I played on the streets with the neighborhood kids.

There was an uncle of mine from Norzagaray Bulacan who stayed with us for a year or so in Sampaloc, when he was studying Engineering in one of the universities in Manila. This uncle became my first formidable basketball opponent. He was in the height of his youth as he was in college, while I was uninitiated for I was not even in kindergarten. He was tall, just a hair shy of 6 feet, while I was only a hair above 3 feet at that time. When he raised the ball high above me, all I can reach was his armpits, so I just tickle him. Yet I remember, he even let me win sometimes.

Fast forward to present, last week we had relatives from southern California who came for a short visit here in Iowa. They stayed with us for a few days and they were impressed on how “green the grass” here in Iowa, both literally and figuratively. Well, there was one song from yesteryears that goes: “it never rains in southern California,” no wonder their grass don’t grow that much. I even teased them to consider moving here in Iowa, but just be prepared to mow the grass more frequently. And be prepared to shovel snow in the winter too!

We toured them around Iowa and we even drove them to Colorado to the Rocky Mountain National Park. We rented a 15-seater van to fit us all (they were 8 of them, plus my family of 4) in one vehicle. I got us an Airbnb place, an old mansion in downtown Denver, which was used to be the French Consulate home which is now converted to a vacation rental. I would say that it was a fun trip and a memorable experience, something that I hope we will remember even in our sunset years.

I splurged a little to accommodate and pamper them, as this was my way of paying them back. Two of the aunts who came were nurses who have been in the US way before me, and they were the ones who supported me when I was just starting my journey of pursuing my American dream. They paid for my US Medical Licensing Exam, which I took while I was still in Manila, and paid my first airfare to the US to have my interview to get into a medical residency training program. I partly owe to them where I am right now.

Also one of the uncle who came was the one who stayed with us in Manila years and years ago, my first formidable basketball opponent. He was a hair shorter than his original height as he said that he had shrunk as he aged. And I am not 3-foot tall anymore, but I was still a hair shorter than him. Both of us though were a hair less than before. In fact, much hair less.

So one morning while our relatives were here, I pulled out the cars out of the driveway, so me and my uncle can shoot some hoops in my driveway basketball goal. I am a more worthy of an opponent this time, and perhaps the tables may even have turned, for he has been slowed down significantly by arthritis. Yet for some magical moment we were again standing under one basketball goal, sharing the same love for the game.

(*photo of my my driveway hoop, taken with an iPhone)

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