Ping-Pong Lions

Photo by Margie Johnson

By Mike Johnson

I just might be buried holding my ping-pong paddle.

Iíve mastered the game and play with Margie often.
I started playing at 6 or 7 and have invested thousands of hours over the table.

There is great comfort in the feel of your favorite paddle, the sound of the ball short-hopping, the effortless reach, spins and angles.
All clearing the net by an inch. Or kissing the white tape in a corner. Or just enjoying a leisurely 100-shot rally before someone finally makes an error.

Margie & I have always made our biggest decisions over the ping-pong table.
Itís effortless activity that frees our mind just enough for an ounce of brilliance to sneak in.

As newlyweds, we rented a two-bedroom apartment to have space for the table.
With our Florida doublewide, we built a screen room for ping-pong.
Our cedar chalet on Pine Island was built on stilts. The games were played on the concrete pad under the house.
In our four Cody houses, we played in an extra room, the basement, the garage and now in this house, the basement again.

Ping-pong has always been a comfortable constant.

During my eulogy to my dad, I thanked him for teaching us three boys ping-pong.
I shared the poignant story of his first-ever loss to me when I was 25.

Prior to that, heíd toyed with us brothers, always letting us get 18 points before magically rallying to beat us 21-18.
After so many years, so many lost games, finally beating the master was a melancholy moment.

Unexpected by us both, it broke the pattern.
It signaled a change.
The sire was surging and the lion was fading.

Neither spoke of it, but we both noticed.

Now Iím the fading lion.
Iím still the better player among my kids, grandkids and nephews.
But I know my day is coming.

I delay this by only playing to rally back and forth, rather than keep score.

When the kids visit, they all race downstairs to claim the table first.

They too, feel the magic.

We don't speak of it, but we all notice what Margie & I learned decades ago.
The conversations we enjoy during ping-pong are sprinkled with ounces of brilliance.

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