Monday, March 23, 2009

Writers' Workshop: My 80th Birthday?

One way to improve your writing is by writing, so in my English Language Arts classes, we wrote. Back in April of '04, I had my classes do a quick write using a prompt from The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination. The prompt was, What if someone gave me a _____ for my ____birthday.

I wrote along with my students and composed:

My 80th Birthday

I was 80 years old. What was my daughter thinking when she gave me a new volleyball?

I guess I should backup to the beginning. It started when Joanna brought Abby to visit me in the hospital: the convalescent hospital. I’m not sick mind you. I’m just old and my body is failing. I’m too much work to have in one of my kid’s houses, and I don’t mind. It’s part of getting old.

But anyway, my 80th birthday came. It was kind of a milestone since both my dad and granddad never made 70 years. All the kids came, and the grand kids. I got some presents: socks, a clock radio with huge numbers, a head set for my TV, so I can turn it up real loud, and a volleyball. A volleyball! What’s an 80-year-old going to do with a volleyball in a convalescent hospital?

“Mr. Evans? Are you awake?”

It was the nurse.

“Mr. Evans, it’s time for your meds. Wake up!”

“Oh Lorraine, I’m awake,” I protested. “I’m was just resting my eyes a bit. Not sleeping. Just resting my tired eyes.”

“Okay Mr. Evans. Whatever you say.”

“Lorraine, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure Mr. E. Shoot. What’s your question?”

“I can’t figure out why my 56-year-old daughter would give me a volleyball for my birthday. I’m way too old to play.”

“You mean this volleyball?” said Nurse Lorraine as she poured out some water to go with the pills.

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Well, it’s not even quite new, you know. And it’s got writing on it.”

“What? Writing? What’s it say? Man, these 80-year-old eyes are getting tired. I didn’t know there was writing. What’s it say?”

“Game ball 11/07/33. To Danielle McGowan – MVP.”

“Danielle? Well, that’s my great grand daughter. She’s only 10.”

“Well there’s a card here too, Mr. E. with a volleyball on it. Maybe it goes with the ball?”

“What does it say, Lorraine? I couldn’t read it. I just looked at it and smiled when Joanna and Abby gave me the ball. My eyes are getting bad, you know.”

It says, “Dear Great-grandpa, I couldn’t come to your birthday party today, because I’m in an All-Star volleyball game. I’m only 10, and I’m the youngest on the team. We’re in the finals this weekend. Last weekend I was voted MVP of the game. I wanted you to have the ball since you got this family playing volleyball back when you were young. When you see the ball, think of me, and know that me, mom, and grandma all love you and appreciate all you’ve given us, including a love for volleyball. All my love, Danielle.”

“Well, Mr. E. I guess that explains it.”

I thought to myself, Well, I guess it does, but I couldn’t say anything ‘cause tears were running down my cheeks, and I was softly sobbing.

It started out as a very disappointing gift, but once I understood, I learned that I was still loved and appreciated, even if I was 80 and falling apart.


  1. Sweet stories, the 80 year old ones. (I like them better than Gepeto!) The names sound strangely familiar.... If you make it to 80, how about we all try and be there? :)

    I just read a good book about growing old, the age/tone here reminds me a bit of that. "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen, about a 90 year old man living now and also reminiscing about his circus days as a young man.

  2. Thanks Joanna, Yeah, those names should sound familiar. (Abby naming a daughter Danielle could happen!) I think the character in this story should be closer to 90. Maybe the next time he will be! I'm thinking of doing a more up-beat 90-year-old story. Maybe the volleyball will help Mr. E rally and recover! Hmmm...