I stared into space late one evening in early July. I could not sleep, the pain in my shoulder was like pain I never felt, it was like an abscess toothache, nothing would take the pain away. I had injured it hitting a backhand volley, a shot I've hit a million times while playing points with one of my students.
A knife went through my shoulder, I screamed and grasped my shoulder. My student alarmed rushed over, "Are you okay?”
"No, no," I said. "I am badly hurt."
My student ran to get ice, almost instinctively. It gave me time to assess what just happened, the pain was excruciating I knew I had done something really bad.
The ice pack was applied, I just stared numbly into space, I told my student I wouldn’t be getting on court..."how bad he asked?"
I said, “this one is really bad."
For days afterwards I couldn't lift my arm; and when I moved it in a way that caused pain, it was unbearable. The nights were especially bad as i tossed and turned and wrenched my shoulder. I finally went to Dr. Shah, an orthopedist who scheduled me for an MRI and said,
"You probably tore your rotator cuff."
All the baseball and tennis players who tore their rotators raced through my head, I asked him" what is the prognosis?"
"Most likely surgery, rehab, and 6-9 months before you are hitting the ball again."
My heart literally sank to the depths of the biggest and darkest abyss. 9 months at my age is like a small lifetime? I was so heartbroken, but I knew the pain I felt wasn't indicative of a minor injury. I have played through a broken hand, fractured foot, nerve damage, a severely strained IT band, so many strains and pulls, I am old school , I'd tell my son, even the torn abductor -- but this was different.
I couldn't even pick up a racket. For that matter I couldn't even pick up a peanut and lift it over my head.
I started taking Mobic to relieve the inflammation and swelling. 6 weeks on Mobic and then I requested another prescription. The medication allowed me to straighten my arm, do a bit of light cooking and cleaning, work on my computer. To be honest, the pain and the sleepless nights said to me, why you would ever want to play this game again.
I am facing shoulder surgery, I have been putting it off hoping by some miracle that I will heal without surgery. Acupuncture, anti-inflammatory this or that, but in the end without these things the pain nemesis returns.
I've told those who asked about my condition that I will not be returning soon. Parents seeking coaching called, I put them off without going into details. I started dodging the messages. The other night I did the unthinkable, I started to imagine life without squash. It was scary at first, but then I thought about it, I was a bit giddy I thought about the freedom, I thought about not having to worry about all the sacrifices squash entails, the early mornings, the soreness, working through injuries, always trying to find matches, coaching, scheduling, the anxiety of maybe you just won't get better, the anxiety of getting old in this game.
I felt so sad and I was really upset with myself for such thoughts, I had come through so much adversity in life, so much adversity in this game. I closed my eyes and I remembered the first time I ever hit a ball, I remember my friend Supriya Mehta telling me when I first hit a squash ball (it was a hardball on the old MIT courts), to remember it as you remember your first time with a girl. I tin'd the ball but something about the racket, the ball, and the simplicity of trying to place a simple object in a certain spot, which just seemed to me the purpose of life. I can honestly say that there were so many times when life just got me down, that I just went out to a court to hit the ball over and over, I felt the ball through my whole body, I heard the sound of the ball through waves of sadness that was like the sun peeking through the darkest clouds; many times alone on court hitting that ball I seemed to make sense of why there was both light and darkness in me.
Now at this juncture, I want so much to hit a ball again, to flick a cross court backhand volley nick, I want to get on court with my son, whom I haven't hit within 5 months, just hit around, to make the indelible connection with him that we always made through squash over the last 20 years, I want to be able to simply tell people I play squash and not spend 15 minutes describing my injury and the doctor's prognosis and why I can't play.
If I cannot play this game, life will go on, but with a different step. I have a beautiful little daughter who has had my undivided attention throughout these past few months, but I want to give her this game the way I gave it to my son, a gift, from father to his children, a gift that is wrapped in gold, a gift that is presented with so much love, I want my new born daughter to someday stand on the court and hit that same backhand volley cross court nick and feel the utter delight of that shot.I will do this for them, get the surgery and take the long road back to this game, to this place where I have been before, which is where I've been most happiest in my life; there are no guarantees the surgeon says, the nature of the injury is such you may not play again. But at least I'll know and if that's the case, I may just end up having