We’re still in West Hartford ‘dad-sitting’ and getting Mark’s parents out to visit with family. Mark’s dad, Ken, is from a very close family and grew up in a big house along with his 5 brothers, one sister and 2 cousins, his mother, her two sisters, and an aunt and uncle. Needless to say there was always lots of kid fun going on. The family loves to sing and Ken has always been an avid barber shop singer.
Now you have a little background let’s move to present day. The remaining brothers and cousins, along with any spouses and family friends of the same generation are all affectionately known as ‘The Fossils’ within the family. The Fossils range in age from 81 to 93. They, along with “adult supervision” provided by some cousins of Mark’s generation, meet every Friday to play 10 pin bowling. We have been lucky enough to accompany Ken & Mark’s mom Debbie for the last 2 weeks for this amazing gathering.
What an event! We all arrive at 11am at the bowling alley; some of the fossils are no longer able to drive and need to be driven by family and friends.
Some of the old guys can barely walk from the ball carousel and most have trouble bending to bowl. They totter up to the line at the top of the alley and to an idle spectator it looks like they just fling the bowling ball. Bounces, bounce, bounce, the ball veers over towards the gutter, and then suddenly you see a slight spin and the ball turns and heads for the centre of the pins. Strike!! At first we thought it was just a lucky throw but these fossils play 3 games every week and fairly consistently get great scores.
Unfortunately Mark’s dad is no longer able to play, he’s on oxygen full time and stays in a wheelchair, but he and Debbie still go to bowling whenever they can. Along with the bowling come coaching tips, jokes, wise cracks, encouragement, general camaraderie and lots of laughter. It’s like listening to a bunch of teenagers but the bodies have overtaken the brains.
One of the uncles is legally blind and he along with all the others beat Julie in every game. How humiliating is THAT!!? After the first game he told Mark that when he bowls he loses sight of the ball about half way down the alley and can’t see which pins are still left and which he hit. From that point on Mark told him after each bowl which pins were left standing. What an inspiring group! They have various health problems related to their ages but there is no complaining except in jest. Everyone is there to have fun and they certainly do!!
You would think after 3 games these old fossils would be ready to go home for a nap. No way – not this crowd – now it’s time to go out for lunch. We all show up at a local restaurant and while we are waiting for our food to arrive the fossils burst into song. There’s lots of kibitzing about what key to sing in, who’s bass or tenor or baritone etc. Patrons at other tables invariably turn to listen and applaud after each song.
After a few songs in almost perfect harmony and pitch, the waitress brings water and straws for everyone. They all tear the ends off the straw wrappers and are blowing the paper wrapper missiles at each other! Now it’s like being out with a crowd of 5 years olds. Mark is sitting next to his Aunt Cid, a sweet quiet lady in her 80s. She quietly passes a straw to Mark and says “This is for your dad”, Mark starts to pass it over to his dad. “No”, she says “It’s to shoot at him!!” What fun.
The fossils are an inspiration to us all on many levels. The three remaining brothers, their two cousins, and close friends are so close and obviously really enjoy each others company. There is no complaining, whining or blaming, just good clean fun. We can only hope that we will be as good natured, fun loving, and grateful to be alive as them as we “fossilize”.
Still young at heart,