Bad Day at Black Rock

The phrase “Bad Day at Black Rock” implies a fateful day that brings disaster. This particular day was a bad day at black rock. Ella has had a great throwing season, surpassing her personal best at both discus and hammer each week since training began. She has won first place or placed in almost all of her meets. But today was the big one, the semi-final to go to State, and her dream turned to dust. She started off the meet badly, but ended up almost there—and then she wasn’t. To make matters worse, the scoring coach made an error and called out that Ella had placed fourth. Nine young ladies threw, but only four could stay in competition for the State meet. When the other throwers’ parents contested the result, the coach had to renege. The confusion was caused by a new rule. If applied, Ella would be going to the State competition, but the new rule was waived, and she is not. Lots of tears. Lots of parental angst. Lots of hand wringing.

When her mom lost a championship overtime match at a high school field hockey game, it had taken me two Friendly’s ice cream sundaes and a pot of chicken noodle soup to cheer her up.

What we grieve is not the loss of one match or one game or even a marriage. What we lose is how we imagined winning would feel: high school star, college scholarships, team hero carried off the field on teammates shoulders, a life-long companion to depend on, maybe children, and economic stability. Our investment is in the future, not the present, and whatever the potential consequences of winning—in this case, going to State finals and recruitment by college coaches—becomes a lot to lose.

I’m just feeling sad for my granddaughter and her parents because I have no words of comfort. My good advice is useless when there is no desire for it to be heard. They aren’t able to grasp that we are not disappointed in them, but disappointed for them. So, I stay silent, hoping they will figure it out for themselves. My latest fortune cookie at the sushi restaurant said, “If you see disappointment as an opportunity, then all will be well.” Let’s hope.

Published by Carole J. Garrison

I’m a conversationalist, an observer, a passionate participant in life. And now, in my later years, I’m a recorder of the lessons of my life through essays, stories, and novels. I live in the fourth moment of life, just outside the normal distribution of most people and it is from this place that I write.

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