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Hoops Are Cathartic


On TV, cancer patients are forever clinging to shiny white toilet bowls, their hair slick with sweat and matted to their foreheads. The person’s overwhelming anxiety and depression are dealt with through a late night game of hoops. The dribbling will awaken someone else in the house, a fundamental character in the story necessary to facilitate conversation. Because she is fundamental, she will pull on a sweatshirt and some slippers and make her way outside. From a distance, she quietly watches the bounce, bounce, stop, and shoot of the first player for just a moment or two before asking him to pass the ball. He is startled at first to see her standing there, but then seems relieved that someone else is awake and with him now, as if his thoughts are too much for him to handle by himself. He passes her the ball. They are quiet, playing ball, the two of them, under the milky light of the moon. Neither one talks until, after a while, they are both exhausted, sweaty and out of breath. They will sit down on the side of the driveway, and here, after reminiscing about playing basketball together that one time way back when, she will make a statement, one that sounds profound, something that a character would say on Lifetime. The other might seem resistant at first to talk, but then decides it’s late, and late at night, when time seems to be frozen, is the best time to talk about such things. The whole thing will be cathartic, and then they will go inside to eat chocolate chip cookies…

We don’t have a basketball hoop, and I don’t even know how to play Horse. So when I see that Alan is struggling, I encourage him to go to a support group. I imagine that I would enjoy such a thing, a group of people all brought together to share stories in an open, welcoming circle. Alan is not particularly hammy and does not enjoy the spotlight like that, but since I can’t offer him a late night game of hoops, I encourage him to attend. It takes a bit of convincing on my part to get him to go. His surgeon has found one close by that meets on Fridays, and when he tells me about it, I am glad. He’ll be able to meet and talk with other people in similar situations, maybe they will take turns bringing in cookies like at that one AA meeting I once followed a friend too. They will share stories of hope and discuss the resiliency of the human spirit. They can offer him the cathartic talk I can’t.

Alan cuts into my daydream. “It’s called Living with Dying,” he says.

I try not to react, try not to undo the convincing and cajoling I had done to get him to agree to go in the first place. But inside I think, Maybe this is a bad idea. I had convinced him to go to a support group with a name that screamed “You Might As Well Get It Over With.” When he went to his first meeting on Friday, I wondered if I shouldn’t go check on him, make sure they weren’t handing out pints of Jim Beam and shotguns.

Last modified: January 10, 2019