The article summarized Barkley’s appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the night before, in which he opened up about his new life as a 60-year-old grandparent. His daughter Christiana just had a son, and Barkley called it the “greatest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”
But what really caught my attention was his notion of now being on the “back nine” of his life. He said that he wanted to spend as much time with his new grandson as possible “because I'm not morbid, I'm not upset, I'm on the back nine. I hope I'm on hole 10 or 11, but you never know. I could be on 17 and 18. So I wanna spend as much time with him as possible.” How insightful!
Barkley added that he hoped his grandson would eventually “Google” him when he gets a little older. “I hope he does some research on me,” he said. “I’ll be long gone, but I would like him to know that I accomplished some things in my life.”
Of course, if and when the young man does research his grandfather, he will know that the old man did indeed accomplish things in his life. From a stand out career on the basketball court at Auburn University, he went on to star in the NBA, where he won an MVP award with the Phoenix Suns.
From there, he transitioned to the broadcast booth, where he has once again made a name for himself in this second career. As anyone who has seen him broadcasting will affirm, his smooth, often laconic style, liberally laced with humor, is quite effective.
Barkley’s perspective resonated well with me. I too am a 61 year old grandfather who is now on the back nine. And I must confess that I find myself enjoying it. After all, most golfers know that one plays the back nine a little differently than one plays the front nine.
Irrespective of one’s chosen career, he or she usually plays the front nine with passion and intentionality. But not so with the back nine. Here, one typically plays with a little more focus on enjoying the game. After all, the 18th hole is always looming. And at some point, the vast majority of us realize that we are simply not going to shoot in the 70s, or even the 80s. So why not just enjoy the game as you play the rest of it out?!
Metaphorically, of course, Barkley did shoot a successful front nine. His score, as it were, would be the envy of many a person! And yet, to his credit, he recognizes now that none of his previous accomplishments in life even begin to compare to “the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life” – the birth of his grandson!
Barkley’s testimony here is commendable. It is tantamount to saying that he is determined to live from this day forward, not so much for himself, but for others. At this point in life, he has made his mark. Henceforward, he intends to spend his time investing in and empowering future generations. And he intends to enjoy every minute of the remaining journey.
As a working professional, much of my identity was closely associated with who I was and what I accomplished. But as a retired individual, I see things differently now. Especially now that I too am a grandfather, I increasingly find that my senses of identity, of significance, and of purpose are all far less wrapped up in my position and/or my accomplishment, and far more wrapped up in my relationships with others, especially my family.
Psalm 103, verse 13 tells us that the love the Lord has for us is comparable to the love a father has for his children. As a son, loved by his father, I came to understand this verse. As a grandson, loved by his grandfather, I understood it twice as much. Later, as the father of three myself, I understood it thrice as much. And, now, as the grandfather of seven, I find that I understand it seven times as much!
As I now play out the back nine, may my testimony reflect that of the Lord, who (in the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 9) told us: “As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue in that love.”
My regular readers will remember that I am an avid Georgia Bulldogs fan. Even I had to laugh, though, when Charles Barkley was once talking smack prior to an Auburn/Georgia game. He mouthed off and said the University of Georgia was the only place where the cheerleaders were actually named after the mascot: UGA-ly!