Thursday, March 26, 2009




By Kai Chen, 1-07-2003


“The way one approaches the game is the way one approaches life”


I had always thought of her as just another player, with ordinary talent and a big heart and the love of basketball. I remembered that when she just started to get into this game, I even tried to discourage her. “It’s a brutal game.” stating my own experience as a former basketball player for the Chinese National Team. “Are you sure you really want to get into this?” The only answer I got was the sound of dribbling the ball. Sure I got a basketball stand in the backyard the moment she started running. But how did I know she had flat feet, no speed and jumping ability and an awkward swing of arms when she runs? I knew she was going to be tall since I am 6’7” and my wife Susan is 5’11”. But being tall does not mean she can play the game. Everybody knows that.

I arrived at the gym a little early, as usual. But this day I was unusually distressed. I was concerned about the pain she had complained in her left knee. She had an ACL reconstructive surgery last year on that knee. So far she had felt fine. And she had performed quite well in the last three tournaments this season. Not only did she not show signs of rustiness, she had some of her best games ever. I was excited and even ecstatic about her recovery, till two days ago she told me about the pain. A teammate inadvertently ran into her during a routine practice. Her left knee had swollen up and there was some fluid in it. She was just about to put things together after she first had the injury in her sophomore year. Now just when she was about to blossom into herself in her junior season, now just when she was about to taste her own fruit of hard work, she had to…. I did not even want to spell out the fear, the uncertainty, the helplessness.

She was working on a stationary bicycle when I walked in. After she was done, she picked up a ball to shoot at one end of the court while the school varsity was practicing at the other end. I walked over to rebound and feed her the ball as I had done thousands of times.

“How do you feel?” I felt compelled by my own urge to know. “Shaky.” She answered without looking at me. “When I tighten my muscles, there is a pain inside.” Her voice became a little unsteady. I approached her, squatted to examine her knee. I reached and touched her leg. The surgical scars were still red and shiny. I stood up. I could see a little moist sparkled in her eyes. There was a little helplessness. Yet she was quiet with that typical determined look on her face. I suddenly realized that this couple of days I was preparing something to say to her in my head, a speech I never thought I would come up with this early.

“Alex,” I reached out my hands to hold her shoulder. “I know that I am your harshest critic. Yet there is something that needs to be said….”

Suddenly I was choked with emotions. I could not continue. I found that one of my hands was still holding her, but the other hand was covering my own mouth. Tears started to trickle down my cheeks. Then both of my hands held her tightly in my arms. Time stood still.

Here in the Marlborough School gym, under the glaring lights, I was holding my daughter in my arms, I was embracing her fully in my heart, as I murmured words into her ears: “I love you so much, so much, Alex…. You make me feel so proud to be your father. So proud….” I could taste my own tears with my feverish kisses on her forehead. “I love you, too, Dad.” was all I heard through her sobs. I realized at that moment that my tears were not tears of sadness and disappointment, but tears of happiness and deliverance. I realized that not only she knew how much she had achieved since she started playing this game, she knew what lay ahead and she was ready to face the challenge. I realized that she had such a flare of confidence that no matter what happens in her future, she will be OK. And I realized that no matter what happens in the future in our family, we will be OK. For a few moments, I was immersed in her grace and dignity. I felt the serenity coming back to me after some unspeakable distress. I realized words could not express what I felt: Life is being lived.

As I stood there watching her 6’1” beautiful frame, I whispered her name to myself as I thought. “You have shown me who you are. You have proven to yourself that you are worthy of this game. You are a winner in life.” I smiled and felt like joking as I extracted myself from the moment: “After all, you got my genes.” She laughed and her face radiated like a summer morning glory. What a beautiful sight.

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