It’s Friday and tonight I play squash with dad. Since I retired from the professional game we have a twice weekly appointment to sweat out stress after work. The story is always the same. While I do a vigorous warm-up from a previous life, my old man kicks his legs to the ceiling twice and he’s ready to go. He uses a racquet from many sponsors ago and his shirt is tucked into the zebra-striped Nike shorts that don’t even come close to the knee. But who can blame him? I gave them to him a few birthdays ago.
We play on a court that has my name on it. However, there is no time for pride. The game we’re about to play is brutal for both parties. Before we start we quickly do the routine we call the Shabana boast-drive, where the guy in the back hits boast & drop and the one in front hits drive & drive. Surely my old man stands too close to the ball. But I can’t tell him. He’s got two national titles more than I, and no doubt withholds any technical advice he has for his son. It’s a strange kind of respect.
The game we play involves two slippers placed at the perfect spot you would want your drive to land. I am a size 13, so they cover most of the back court. But dad has size fifteen, so we’re doing the best we can. The rules of the game are in his favour, as age is in mine. I can only play length while targeting the slippers, dad plays full court. Every ten points I run twenty court sprints. Hitting the shoe means three points. Volleying on it means five. First to 21. Which basically means: last man standing.
Doing twenty court sprints every ten points surely didn’t sound like much a while ago, but nowadays they kill me. The best part is that my old man masochistically watches me run up and down from front to back wall whilst towelling himself off and drinking a sugary sports drink. He’s always in a rush when he sympathetically hands over my racquet after my twentieth sprint and quickly precedes to serve. This is his chance. For about two minutes his son is also sixty-six years old.
This is a game of running away and catching up. After I’ve run away, the sprints impede my movement, and he catches up. But it’s hard on my dad, too. Much harder than before. He can’t give up any more whenever he’s a few points down, with the excuse of “too good” or “too young”. Every ten points a lifeline is thrown at him. However, it’s a line he sometimes hates to catch as it could as well mean: suffer again.
Since the introduction of this new-found game, let’s say July 2017, we’ve been walking slowly up and down stairs on Saturday and Monday mornings. We’ve asked our women to have protein rich dinners ready on the table at homecoming so optimal recovery is guaranteed. We’ve lost many kilos, drank litres of coconut water, and broken many racquets in front of crowds that gradually grew. We’ve even started charging entry fees now.
Last week the club offered to put up a glass court on the roof next to the helicopter pad so spectators could fly in from anywhere in the world to witness this epic clash of generations.
The game that started out as a friendly family affair has become a cage fight.