We stayed at Catalina Resort and Spa for another 10 days after all of our kid RV friends left. Grandma and Grandpa Murphy were happy to have the full attention of their grandkids again. My regular morning pickle ball games with my dad became more regular. He and I have been playing almost every morning since we arrived. It was great watching him play a game that he was really good at and he also thoroughly enjoyed. It was also pretty special to be able to play it with him almost daily for nearly 2 ½ months. We spent the time doubling up on school days to make up for our upcoming two and a half months of mountain biking. The park’s population seemed to decrease with each day so we pretty much had both the pools to ourselves. We also played lots of pickle ball with the friends I had made during my morning pickle ball games. The park had 6 pickle ball courts and a group of about 6-20 players would meet each morning at 9am for some competitive games. Throughout the 2 ½ months we were there, many players would come and go. However there were 6 particular players that really stood out in our minds and who we will truly miss playing with.
Suzie and John were fulltime RVers who also have a sailboat. So of course we liked hanging out and playing with these folks. Suzie and I played many games together and shared many laughs. She and I would encourage each other as we battled back from behind in many games. She even participated in one of our family workouts despite it being well outside of her comfort zone. She always had a smile on her face and a super positive attitude. She always made playing with her a great time regardless if we won or lost.
Tom and Jody were not only regular pickle ball players but our neighbors in the park. They were some of the most competitive players so of course I liked being able to play with them as they were always a challenge. Like Suzie, Jody and I often partnered together. She and I took on some of the best players in the park and often came out on top. There were many mornings that she and I would be undefeated as a team. Tom made this list not only because he is a great guy with amazing comedic timing but was so kind and willing to play with Alexander. When all of the other adults, understandably, wanted to play competitive pickle ball, Tom would take the time to go play with Alexander. As I watched and listened to their games as I played mine, I would hear my son laughing and learning from this very kind and generous man. And there was even a time when a group of three adults needed another person to play and Tom called Alexander in to play on his team. I could see that the other adults were not so keen on having a little kid play, but Tom insisted and Alexander got to play with the adults. He was grinning from ear to ear and played well with Tom encouraging his every move. Alexander’s day, no his week, was made by that act of kindness. Alexander talked about that game for weeks.
Trish was the big hitter of the park. She was one of the players who was instrumental in my pickle ball refinement. Whenever she was around I would try my best to play against her despite the beating I would take. I think it took me two months before I was able to get a victory against her, and I am sure she was just being nice. She was highly competitive but at the same time would slow down her game to play my mom and keep the game close. Not many really good players would even bother playing weaker players but Trish did it and did it in a manner that encouraged the weaker players. Trish also spent some time playing with both Alexander and Victoria one on one helping them to improve and feel involved. At one point a really good player showed up at the park and began dominating. Trish grabbed me and said lets team up and show this guy he is not as good as he thinks. It was rare that I ever got to play with Trish as we both like to play against each other as we both presented the best challenge to one another. The view from Trish’s team was fun as I, kind of, helped her bring that good player’s ego back in line.
Lynn was one of the first players that welcomed me to the pickle ball group. She showed tremendous patience while teaching me not to just hit it hard every time. She, more than anyone, taught me the strategies and importance of positioning. She is a great teacher, nice and encouraging yet equally firm and quick to smack me around when I got a little too cocky. She not only taught me most of the basics of pickle ball but she taught both my dad and then my mom too. She was one of only a few good players that had the patience but most importantly the kindness to play with beginners. And those beginners also included both Alexander and Victoria. Lynn was quick to offer to play with Alexander and Victoria sometimes for hours patiently teaching them how to hit soft and hard and to place the ball right where it should go. Both the kids loved Lynn and would talk about how nice she was or the hits that she taught them during our games together. Alex would score a point on me, would laugh and say “Lynn taught me that”. Victoria would see me hit a bad shot and reply with, “Lynn would have told you to hit it like this instead.” Playing with Lynn the kids learned a lot about pickle ball but more importantly the felt included and important by someone other than a family member. And for that we will forever remember and appreciate our time with Lynn.