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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Big Night for Nat and Big Day for Nora!

Last night our boys and girls Varsity Basketball Teams won their Homecoming Games in hard-fought matches against taller teams with deeper benches. It was a proud night for our school.

Let me pause for a moment as I "free write" to explain that there are two kinds of pride: there is the "Pride goeth before a fall" kind of pride the Book of Proverbs warns us to avoid, which is haughty and arrogant and leads to one's own destruction.... and then there is the "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" kind of pride that comes from taking whatever talent you have and adding interest, instruction, effort, and teamwork to become better as a whole than you are in your individual parts. It is in this latter sense that I say "It was a proud night for our school." Because Natalie is on our girl's team, I'll take a minute to further explain.

This is a team of seven girls from the smallest school in the conference (some of our competition have student bodies that are 8 to 9 times our size); none of our girls had the benefit of playing on a junior varsity team (because we don't have a JV team); some (including Nat) were not sure they were good enough to play at all. Our varsity girls consist of one gifted 8th grader, one feisty 5'2" freshman, four improving sophomores, and on inspiring junior who stands 5'4".  These seven girls have been well-coached and have held their own all season against teams they have no business beating. "Better" upper-classmen teams with deeper benches have underestimated this team right up to the last buzzer when they sulk back to their guest locker-room in disbelief.

(I never noticed Nat's secret for making free throws until I saw this picture. I do the same thing when I'm concentrating. See it? Her Gramma Kapanka used to do that when she made a cake. Nat hit 7 of 7 from the line last night.)

Printed on the back of the girls' warm up shirts are four words: "Hard work beats talent." They were hoping that was true at the beginning of the season, but what they didn't know was that, through hard work, they have multiplied their talent since the last time they met this Grand Rapids team six weeks ago (and lost by 9).

That's the kind of good playing that makes hundreds of parents in the bleachers smile as their "little engine that could" team huddles around their coach in victory as they did last night.

He knows the game; he works them hard; he coaches with intensity (and sometimes gets too intense and he knows it); but after the games, win or loose, he  gives his players phone calls of encouragement, positive text messages, and Facebook "Attagirls!". He studies the tapes and teaches accordingly. The girls know he cares. More importantly, he is a big enough man to own up to mistakes and say "I'm sorry" or "I blew it" to the team and others when he gets too harsh or too focused or too "in the moment" of the game. It takes a big man to apologize when he realizes his passion and intensity has become a stumbling block to the things that matter most. He's working on finding that balance, and I respect that.

It has been interesting to watch this particular coach-player relationship grow over the season. It's been encouraging to see both the coach and the team work on their individual weaknesses and by working together become better versions of their former selves—not perfect by any means…but making progress in the right direction. The most important element of athletic competition is not in the "win" but in those steps toward becoming and in those shared "well done" moments with or without the win.

Oops! I almost forgot... [This photo and paragraph added Monday.]

It was also a big night for Nat because she was her class representative on the Homecoming Court. After the basketball game, she ran back stange, waved a magic wand, and POOF! she came out looking like a princess in royal blue!
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But I digress... this post was not originally about last night's game or Homecoming; it was intended to be about today, which happens to be my granddaughter Nora's first birthday.

Last year, Julie and I missed the Homecoming Game and presentation of the court because we were downtown at the hospital enjoying our first hours as grandparents. A few weeks later, shared that being a grandpa was a lot of hard work. And back in October, I showed you Nora in her skunk costume. Wow! A whole year has passed. She has been walking for three or four weeks.

We're having a birthday party tomorrow with Keith's parents and all the siblings that are in town. Can't wait. This has been a great year for Julie and I in our new role as grandparents. It's been a difficult year in some other respects, but through it all, I would say that Julie and I are more focused on the things that matter most in life, and I didn't realize it until this morning when I sat down to write this post that some of that focus—maybe perspective is a better word—is because of Nora. Below is a poem and post from last February.

A Candle Came
.
A candle came
to mid-day light
and even then it shone
bright with the hope
that one tiny flame alone,
a wick aglow in a window,
can change the night;
its faint and flickering cry
from two points far apart
can burn just bright enough
to catch the eye
and turn a wandering heart
t’ward home.
© Copyright 2010, TK, Patterns of Ink

“Her name means light,” my daughter Emily said as we began to leave the hospital room last Friday, “I mean… in case you want to know what Nora means for something you might write someday.”

I smiled, because I knew it was Emily's way of planting a seed (if not giving me a small homework assignment), but nothing clicked at the time, and I forgot about it until last night.

After leaving school around 5:30PM, I dropped off a meal that one of our secretaries made for the young couple’s first week at home with a new baby. I stayed about a half hour, holding Nora in my arms the whole while. She opened her eyes only once. Toward the end of my stay she did make the faintest cry while being changed, but the rest of the time she just slept and squirmed and made cute baby noises.

Before I gave Nora back to Emily, she said, “I read your blog. That was real nice, Dad."
.
"Did you read all the comments"

"Yes, those were nice, too. Did you see the pictures from the delivery room on Facebook? I just put them up today.”
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I hadn’t yet seen the pictures, and since I’m not on Facebook [Julie is], Emily pulled them up on her computer right there in the front room. As we were looking at pictures, she showed me the one I included above and said, “Isn’t it cool how the light caught her face just as the doctor was trimming the cord? She’s is less than a minute old in that picture.”

It was a remarkable picture taken at 1:43 in the afternoon by a new father in a moment of sheer relief and joy. When Emily mentioned the light on Nora's face, I remembered what she had told me Friday about the meaning of her name.

Just then I noticed that the candles in the front window had come on while we were sitting there.[i.e. small brass-based window candles Emily inherited from my mother’s house]

"Were those on a second ago? I didn't see them." I asked.

"They're on a timer to come on at dark," she said, clicking to the next picture.

That's the picture there to the right. It made me laugh because it looks like Nora was smiling and winking at her daddy's camera as her footprints were being taken for the birth certificate. There were lots of other great snapshots, and I chuckled and said "Awww" a lot in the way that only grandpas can do without sounding light in the loafers.[I mention that last part for my fellow grandpa, Keith’s dad, who has been a good friend through the years and shares my growing inclination toward misty eyes and wonder as we enter this new phase of life.]

It was after six o'clock and time for me to head home where Julie was making some chicken corn chowder for supper. I gave Nora back to her mommy, and stepped out the back door to my car.

The window candles again caught my eye as I backed out of their long driveway, but I thought nothing more about it. Then this morning, about ten minutes before my alarm went off, I woke with some lines tumbling around in my head. This happens to me sometimes so I keep a notepad in my bed stand, but to be honest I haven’t touched it in months. I scribbled the lines down, and to my surprise they still made sense after I took my shower.

I’m sharing this explanation only because it’s strange how, like in some dreams, there is a connection between seemingly unrelated events and a much more concrete image they later bring to mind. Only Emily will know first-hand the tie between real life conversations and the scribbled lines, but I hope someday they bring a smile to Nora’s face and remind her of the meaning of her name.
0174 and then 88657

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