18 November, 1945.
My dad would have been 68 today. We lost him way, way too early. But as each sun rises and sets beyond our last hello I grow more confident he is still with me. He was forever a teacher, a coach intent on doing all he could to help me succeed. Sometimes that meant letting me fail, and in doing so allowing me to learn his lessons the hard way. I know now it wasn’t easy for him, but he did it anyway.
I woke this morning with happiness. The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful morning, and things are going well for me. Deep in my heart I ache to share these joys with my dad, but even deeper still I know I already am. And as I woke this morning and said a silent prayer wishing my old man a happy birthday, I couldn’t help but think about golf. My mom was my dad’s one true love, but golf was certainly his mistress.
And it was there on beautiful fairways and lush greens that my dad and my brother and I all bonded as men. And it was there that my dad probably experienced the most frustration with my inability (conscious or otherwise) to heed his teachings.
“Keep your head down.”
“You’re swinging too hard. Quit trying to kill the ball.”
“Keep your arm straight.”
“You are aiming for the trap. Do you want to be aiming for the trap?”
“Stop looking up.”
And my personal favorite…
“What was that?”
Mind you, my dad was never condescending, rude, sarcastic, arrogant or angry. Well, maybe a little sarcastic at times, but never with the intent to make me feel bad. He was always so calm and low key and soft spoken…At least on the golf course. He was always trying to help, until he realized that helping me wasn’t helping me. And then he’d stop. No fanfare, no apologies, no regrets. Just one last volley in my direction.
“Thanks for coming out with me today. I’m having fun. I hope you are too.”
There it was. Inception. The old man using every trick up his sleeve to get me to relax. Not that it was a trick. He cherished spending time together on the course. I did too. I still do. Looking back, I can see how his well thought out mind game worked. With love and generosity he got me to quit trying so hard and just enjoy the moment. We would chat, joke with each other, celebrate the outdoors, celebrate a great shot.
Celebrate each other.
In the end we always had a great time. And before the round was over I would even manage to hit a shot or two that would have looked pretty decent as a highlight on SportsCenter. I’ve found his lessons still ring true, never more so than when I’m away from the golf course. So as I go about my work, I will celebrate my dad on this day, his birthday. I will stop trying to kill the ball, keep my head down and my arm straight. And more than anything I will remember to have fun today. Thanks dad, for all the fun times, the high scores and the endless mulligans. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for the lessons that continue to teach me. I love you.