I did not want to go to the alumni basketball game at Xavier High School Saturday night.
I whined about it somewhat incessantly, especially once I confirmed that I would be the sole representative of the 1981 – 1982 squad.
“I’m going to be the oldest alumnae there,” I said.
They line you up at these functions, you know. You stand where you think you belong, and then, as younger alumnus show up, you shift, one step at a time, to the south until you’re looking to the left at a whole lot of people who don’t even remember who you are, and to the right at the gym wall.
Then, when you’re sufficiently horrified at the cruel passing of time, they march you onto the court where you pray in your doddering that you won’t trip, turn your soon-to-be-arthritic ankle, and have to be carted off by eager youngsters who can’t help wincing when they hoist you to your feet.
My patient husband accompanied me and patted my shoulder sympathetically as the realizations hit me with exponential dismay.
“I’m not just older than these players,” I said. “I’m older than the parents of these players!”
“I’m older than referees!”
“I’m older than the practice gym!”
And, I was.
But I met an epiphany as we waited to be announced, and her name was Amy Herman Wyman.
Amy proudly stood in the very last spot, class of 1977, the actual oldest alumnae on the court.
She played the game before the implementation of the groundbreaking and field-leveling Title IX court decision that mandated equal time for female athletes. Her team practiced from 8-10 p.m. every night, and made do with volunteer coaches — freshman and sophomore players from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh girls’ basketball team.
She whipped off her knit hat as she chatted with us, a proud and inspiring warrior in another battle.
“It’s my third bout with cancer,” she said. “I’ll have this port for the rest of my life.”
We talked a little more as we prepared to march out for our half-time introductions.
“I’m going to be here next year, too,” she said. “And, if I’m not, that’s okay because I’m here now.”
I hope Amy does come back for the next Xavier Alumni Night. I hope I do too and I really hope all of our teammates join us as well. Life is short, and we should seize the opportunity to celebrate when they’re kindly presented.
I want to thank Xavier High School for inviting me back, and I want to say how proud I am to stand next to athletes like Amy, the Bayer sisters and all those talented young athletes who stood to our north.
I loved watching the current Hawks play, coached by my former student A.C. Clouthier, and I look forward to them joining us on that alumnus line some day as well.
Congratulations to the Xavier girls’ basketball program! I’m glad to be associated with your program, and gladder still that I didn’t trip when you called my name. Whew!