The week in which I became ever so aware that I am in the autumn of my years (the early Autumn I hope, maybe even late Summer) began with the clear reminder that Spring, in the form of my 9 year old son, is bustling impatiently at my shoulder.
Being a peaceable person generally speaking, I was surprised at my reaction to CJ playing his first rugby game last Sunday afternoon. He came on after 20 mins and was set to play for about a quarter of an hour given that the coach likes to ease in the newbies.
He took his position wide out in the backline (so his inexperience could cause the least damage), and within seconds the play made its way in his direction. His opponent picked up speed, beat a tackle or two, and I watched Christopher, solving his momentary confusion by launching himself into a massive crunching tackle leaving the opposing speedster in a crumpled heap on the ground. In tears. Needing to be substituted. CJ’s coach was beaming.
Moments later, the same thing. This time he lines up another player, buries his shoulder in his midriff, drives him back a couple of yards in a textbook tackle. Cue more tears and another substitution, and a jig of delight from my son’s coach. ‘Where did he learn that?’ he asks me excitedly, ‘do you have a tackle bag in the back garden?’
These were his first two involvements in a rugby game, and he still hadn’t touched the ball. That was to come. The next set-piece was an uncontested scrum. Christopher was put in the out half position, received the ball and ran. And ran. And ran. Beat two tackles, outran two others, and scored a try.
It’s easy this game. He played the remainder of the game and was given the weekly ‘Player of the Week’ trophy. And Ade and I were so proud.
What surprised me was my visceral reaction to his fullblooded tackling in those opening moments. I had to supress a guttural, primeval roar. That’s MY boy out there. As if his physicality was somehow an extension of my own.
So it has been a strange few days. My son is still bristling with excitement from Sunday, and me, well I’m more aware now that my time is passing and not just because of his energy. This tent of the body is wearing thin. That’s not morbidity. Just fact.