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That Old Man
by Gene Johns
April 10, 2001

Most of the people who knew Al didn't care for him. He was a short man with an even shorter temper. He always hung out at the local bowling establishment bowling a few games or just sitting at the snack bar drinking coffee and talking to anyone that would listen.

Although Al was in his mid-sixties, he was an above average bowler and always gave his best and worked hard to help his team win in league play. Everyone knew Al was a short fuse on a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. At the first bad shot to the last of the night, he would always stomp off the approach and fuss at himself after making that lousy shot throwing a towel and uttering profanity under his breath. Al took his game seriously.  

For some reason, this senior citizen took up with a young man, and a mutual friendship began. Al always seemed to be there when the 15-year-old came to practice, and he would often give unsolicited advice that eventually turned into sought-after instruction. The two of them began a teacher/student relationship—unknowingly teaching and learning about more than just bowling.     

The teenager was wise enough only to accept and practice advice Al gave that would help his game and listened politely to all of Al's stories and relived victories of his younger years. Not many, if anyone, listened to Al or took his advice, except that young man that did listen and in time it noticeably improved his bowling skill. 

Nearly thirty years later that young man, now a seasoned veteran with a number of championships in his resume, recalls how that small short-tempered man that no one liked helped him achieve his dreams.         

I will never forget that "old man." He gave me more than tips about bowling—he thought me that no matter how much someone is disliked even a short-tempered little old man has something to offer if one only listens.       

Al may have been a small man but he is big in my life. Al is gone now, but if I could I would tell him, “Thanks Al, you were a great teacher and a dear friend. Thank you for all you did for me. I will never forget you, Al!"