Pop at Play: Through Generations of Games & Fun He Discovers the Fountain of Youth
When I called my father this morning to hear his report from yesterday, he told me about several work and business accomplishments...and ended with a fun story about his playdate with an 8-year-old friend who lives down the hill from him. She loves to play with my father. At 91, he still has that spark, that joy in living. He invents new games and revives old ones. Pop has a youthful heart inside an aging body. You can clearly see the boy inside the man.
The times the three of us children played with my father are some of my favorite memories of growing up with him. At times Pop could be stern and forbidding, but when he came back to his playful nature and made time to play games with his children, he showed his love and the tender side of his manhood. By playing with us, he signalled he was not only an authority figure to be obeyed, but also a human being.
We played "Trap," "Climb the Mountain," "Elephant Tail," "Airplane," and "Skin the Cat" with my father. These were special games that we only played with him. Other games belonged to our separate childhood play. During the time my mother earned her Masters in Education at Washington University in St. Louis, we were often with him in the evenings and these physical games, almost a form of gymnastics, were the ones we played, amidst many giggles.
My father's physical strength and wind can no longer support those games, but he and his young playmate find other games to delight them. They play hide-and-go-seek in his big house. Pop said he could hear her giggling in the closet, but went there last so she could have a sense of having successfully hidden. Children still jump on his bed or jump on the hay in the barn.
My father often sings with this child and teaches her the old songs of his childhood and mine. He also helps her with her spelling and is a brillliant teacher, intuitively. For the word "scarf," he tells her: "Think of a cat and a dog. The cat goes 'scccccccc' and the dog goes 'arf'!" By making learning playful and linking the word to images and sounds, spelling becomes easy and fun.
My father, at 91, is an old dog who keeps learning new tricks and teaches those tricks to the community that gathers around him. He has tapped into the Fountain of Youth explorers throughout the centuries searched for. Cosmetic companies pay big bucks to make us think youth comes out of a jar. But, it ain't so, folks. Youth comes from a heart filled with love.
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