I was a bit scared this week, when someone had to stop playing after just three games and said it was his heart. Should he go to the hospital? Are his tennis decades at an end? It was the same court, where a man just dropped and died at age 85 some years ago.

Two summers ago, I played doubles with a man in his early 70’s who stopped after just a game or two. His playing days ended right then. Too much pain in a leg after giving it a few weeks rest, I think. This August he was riding his bike and his heart gave out. How awful.

At my local indoor courts, I always see the “old-men’s game,” because they are there five days a week at 8:30 AM, and range from mid-80’s to 90 years old. Some can hardly run or move quickly. But I long to join them, if I make it to their phase of life. For now I admit that there is a tiny bit of anxiety that any serious ache or pain might signal the end of my athletic days…maybe my life. A constant fear that I can usually dismiss and forget about it.

Anxiety is a deadener in its own right. Millions have it, own up to it, try to overcome it with drugs, meditation or therapy. I know a retired cardiologist who dealt with life and death issues by burning up his tension running a few miles every day. And many friends talk about their fear of those doctor visits, when they might hear the dreaded diagnosis that will lead to no more: sports, athletics, frivolity, and life.

When I watch the deer and birds outside, they are constantly alert to danger from predators…every time they put their heads down to eat. In a developed country’s middle-class society, we generally don’t have to worry about being cut down physically by bullets and bombs–though car crashes are a risk–but there is still the reality of the doctor saying we too have a terminal illness. So it goes. Whatever. It’s why I play while I can and strive to live healthfully.