Location: Queens, New York
Ages: 76, 79, 73
One of my favorite pastimes at airports is to observe folks and try to discern what their connection is and what they are off to do. Sometimes it is obvious. The colleagues in their crisp shirts and tailored suits off to a conference or meeting. The families corralling and cajoling their little ones, with the beleaguered parents wondering how they are going to survive the flight, let alone the trip. But then there are the folks for whom the destination or the reason for their trip is not immediately clear. That is when it is fun to guess. That couple just met online and decided their first date should be something crazy and spontaneous, like a trip to a city neither has ever visited. Those folks who are all laughing at something on one of their screens just came from a reunion trip and this year’s footage is particularly cringe-worthy. I listen to snippets of conversation and fill in the parts of the story that are missing or chuckle at how off base I was in what I conjectured.
So when I met these three lovely ladies in the security line at LaGuardia Airport, I knew that they were good friends from the way they were ribbing each other. (Carol was holding up the line with a drink she needed to abandon and Noel and Joyce were giving her a hard time about it.) But I could never have guessed the reason for their trip. These three New Yorkers (Noel is from Massapequa, Joyce is from Long Island and Carol is from Westbury) are teammates. They play softball for the Delaware Blue Chicks and were on their way to Florida to play in a senior softball tournament.
At 73, Noel is considered the baby of the group. She is the team’s pitcher and also plays outfield and serves as a pinch runner. (“I have her run the bases for me,” Carol says. “And when I am not hitting well, I wish I could have her hit for me too.”) Noel’s father was a rancher and she grew up on a ranch in Colorado, so she says serving as the sheep herder of the group comes naturally to her. When she is not competing with the Delaware Blue Chicks, she plays in two coed softball leagues at home. (“I am the co,” she says, “and the rest are eds.”) In the summer, she averages sixteen games each week.
Joyce, who set off the security alarms thanks to her double knee replacements, says she loves the camaraderie of the team. Carol, who taught physical education for 45 years and also coached basketball, turns 80 next month. She says that gathering all the players “who are still alive and can move a little bit” means that no one is particularly invested in who wins. “I love going out to dinner afterwards,” she says. “It is all about keeping ourselves safe, keeping the other teams safe, and then having some wine together!”
I love the idea of continuing to play a sport – albeit with concessions – well into your eight decade and beyond. I love that these ladies travel together to tournaments and have found others who share their passion and enjoy the whole experience, not just the games themselves. And I applaud the example they are setting of staying active and engaged and carrying their good time with them wherever they go.