By Jay D. Prince
Since launching Squash Magazine in 1997, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and hang out with some of the all-time greats in the game of squash. The first in-person interview I did was with Chris Walker at the U.S. Open in Minneapolis when he told me that he enjoyed skydiving. Yes, jumping out of airplanes with nothing but a well-tied kite separating him from life and death strapped to his body.
That same week, I interviewed Mitch Dorge, the lead drummer of the then-hot Crash Test Dummies band.
I spoke with Jahangir Khan by phone, from my dining room at three O’Clock in the morning while he was in Karachi…after calling three times only to reach someone who clearly did not speak english. Of course, I got a better opportunity to speak with him in person in a restaurant in Princeton, NJ, during the World Junior Men’s Team Championships in 1998.
I’ve played squash with Sarah Fitz-Gerald. Okay, I was on the court at the Harvard Club in New York City floundering away in the back of the court marvelling at how early she got to every ball and punished me brutally.
I’ve interviewed players online via Skype, a really cool way to talk to people.
I even got to play Brett Martin in the U. S. Championships a few years ago. My goal was to score a point a game. I think I lost 9-1, 9-0, 9-2, so mission accomplished.
And I’ve had the opportunity to take photographs of the best players in today’s game, and the best junior players in the United States, for the past 13 years.
But far and away the most memorable hour I’ve spent while traveling for squash was with my grandfather two years ago. Yes, my grandfather.
For those of you who know me well, you know I’ve taken every opportunity when traveling to the northeastern part of the country to spend at least an hour or two visiting with my grandfather outside of Boston. That is something I didn’t have many chances to do when I was younger, since I grew up outside of Seattle. But because the sport of squash has taken me to Boston, New York, Hartford, New Haven and Newport so many times, I was blessed with the ability to get to know my grandfather, and my grandmother, much better than I’d ever hoped for.
On one of my visits, I was armed with a few questions from my children. One question was what it was like when he started driving in the 1920’s. Before I knew it, my grandfather began telling a story about getting his driver’s license that I had to interrupt because I had to get it on tape. The story was fascinating, and having the audio of his recollection was so much more meaningful to my children than anything I could ever have retold.
When my son was born in 1995, my grandfather turned 85. We had a huge family reunion to celebrate, and he whisked my son away for a private visit the moment we walked through the door. While there, we had a photo taken of me, my dad, my grandfather and my son standing in front of a portrait of my great-grandfather. That was really cool. All the more so because since retiring, my grandfather had been doing extensive genealogical research into his patrilineal side of the family. My son, Alex, was the first male in the 15th generation of Princes, so somewhat of a celebrity.
About 16 months ago, my grandmother passed away and my Grandfather announced that he had decided he was going to live to be 100: “That would mean that I’d have worked for 35 years and then have been retired for 35 years. I’d say that would be a well-balanced life.”
He almost made it. We all expected to be sending a nice photo to Willard Scott to feature him as a Smuckers centenarian on the Today Show. My interview with him is something I’ll remember long after I’m done writing about squash. My grandfather died this morning at 99 years and five months of age. He was the oldest person I’d ever known, but his zest for life kept him young. That is something we can all strive for.