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Archive for June, 2022

A Father’s Day Visit From My Dad: Sunday musings…6/19/22

A raging “sea” sits just outside my windows as I watch the U.S. Open Golf Championship, held this year as always on Father’s Day weekend. 50+ MPH winds last night “redecorated” my backyard, depositing umbrellas in new locations and moving carpets hither and yon. I got an impromptu shower as two gigantic waves hit the seawall while I was checking on the condition of my antique boat, stored as always just below our upper deck. Beth is at a horse show; the dogs have re-racked. The weekend is off to a quiet start. At least indoors, that is.

Father’s Day is an interesting holiday. Many (most?) Dads get a pass on pretty much all responsibilities at home and head to whatever venue they visit when they are doing the thing they do for themselves. The golf course or the boat launch. Perhaps the tennis courts or a duck blind. I’ve always taken a different approach, trying to be available to do Dad stuff with my kids, or in recent years with my grandkids. I liked being “Dad” when my kids were younger, and I really enjoy being “Papi” with my grandkids. Who knows who will be around to play with me, but it doesn’t really matter. I’ll be here and I’ll be ready.

In yesterday’s WSJ Elizabeth Bernstein wrote a very nice little piece about the bond she and her Dad had through sailing. For my brother and me the bond came through golf. My Dad gifted us with the game of golf when we were quite young; I was 8, my brother 7. Golf was where we got to see the guy my Dad’s friends saw. Dad was a bit of a tease with his buddies, who in turn teased him right back. It wouldn’t be until we were in our 30’s before Randall and I felt like we could tease him back. On Father’s Day Dad would play with the Levin brothers, three of his close golfing buddies, and the caddy master would assign my brother and me to the foursome. To be sure we were at work, my brother and I, but unlike other Sundays we were very much included in the banter of the round.

Our Dad being a Dad on Father’s Day.

It’s been almost 7 years since Dad passed away, and about 10 since he disappeared into his mind and left us. I think of him and miss him every day, but especially so, of course, on Father’s Day. I want to call him and ask him about The Country Club and his round there. To tell him how excited I’ve been to be playing golf again, and to hear him offer encouragement when I tell him that I’m back on injured reserve as my “good” hip fails me and I can neither walk a course nor swing a club. He’d be upbeat and positive, confident in my eventual recovery, and we would look ahead to our next round together. A good walk it would be, indeed.

As I wait in hope that I will receive the gift of being Dad or Papi I will leave you, as I have done for some 5 years now, with the story of the last Father’s Day I spent with my Dad. A brief moment when all was as it had been, a Dad and his boy together on a golf course.

My siblings and I only need to remember one weekend each year when it comes to celebrating my Dad. His birthday almost always falls within a day or two of Father’s Day. So it was that I found myself in Rhode Island the past couple of days, in the company of my Mom and a guy masquerading as my Dad, a guy who was very curious about the new fella who’d dropped by for a visit.

Getting old is not for sissies, my friends.

Somewhere inside, deep inside, there’s still some of my Dad in the jumbled up connections of his mind, carried by the body that failed him in such spectacular fashion 2 ½ years ago. Dad is extremely intelligent, the only family member in his generation to have gone to college. Quite the athlete, he used football and the GI Bill to pay for school. Like so many in his generation he then worked, raised a family, and put himself through grad school. He won his club championship in golf twice at the ages of 50 and 60. No typo. Beat the reigning RI State Amateur champ on his home course for the first one.

As we sat on the porch of his house overlooking the par 5  14th hole, I had an ever so brief visit from that guy. From my Dad. Like a citizen of Brigadoon he came slowly through the mist of his mind to join me for a bit. We’d always bonded over golf. My brother and I never turned down an invitation to join him on the course, either as partners or as caddies for him and his buddies. It was quite a privilege to do either; my Dad’s most elemental essence was expressed on the golf course.

A light breeze was blowing through the forest in the back yard just beyond the rough. We chuckled at the golfers who failed to take the wind into consideration, sheepishly trying to sneak into our yard to retrieve their out-of-bounds second shot. Dad talked about caddying as a kid in the Depression. We both noted the absence of caddies as the foursomes passed in and out of view. It was really very nice.

I quite like the Dad of my adulthood. Quick to smile, slow to anger, unfailingly loyal and kind. It’s hard to imagine now how distant he was when I was a boy, his friendship as an adult is so easy. I’m not sure how long we sat there to be honest, nor when I noticed that he was slipping away. As surely as the village of Brigadoon disappears, the mist had returned to claim him. I got up, walked over to his chair, held his hand and gave him a kiss. I wished him a Happy Birthday and a Happy Father’s Day, hoping that I’d made it on time. That he was still there. That he knew it was me, Darrell, his oldest child. I told him I loved him.

He smiled and gave my hand a little pat as he disappeared into the mist.

I really miss my Dad.

Happy Father’s Day to all who are so blessed. I’ll see you next week…

Another Reunion. Sunday musings…6/12/2022

1 Gore. An unused parcel of land over which no one claims ownership. Apparently the word from which one of my college classmates last name is derived.

Could have some fun with this one in lighter times, eh?

2. Birthdays. We’ve entered the time of year I like to call “birthday season”. All three of my kids start turning older this weekend. Randy turned 30. 30! How the heck did THAT happen?!

Time flies, man. Time flies…

3. Reunion 1. Beth and I are “flying back” from my 40th College Reunion on Route 90. We had the silliest flight home from Williamstown you can imagine. A three hour drive to Boston in order to fly to Myrtle Beach for the privilege of a 3 1/2 hr. layover before heading home to Cleveland. Almost 12 hours via that route, so here I am, with Beth driving, once again typing to you at 75 MPH courtesy of the modern internet.

I mean, come on, who does anything but fly TO Myrtle Beach?

4. Reunion 2. Wow. I mean, just WOW! It’s been 40 years since I drove away from the Purple Valley in the family station wagon chockablock filled with 4 years of stuff cleared out from the last of my dorm rooms and carted back to Rhode Island for the last time. That was a weird trip; I think it was the only time I was alone in a car for that drive, ever. Pretty melancholy ride, to be honest. Quite a bit different from my first drop-off ride in the fall of 1978 when I was deposited in my freshman dorm room after a raucous family drive along the topsy turvy asphalt ribbon of Route 2, the Mohawk Trail, through Massachusetts.

Until this weekend that was the only time I’d been in a car on that particular drive. Beth and I were routed that way from Boston via the map app as we headed back to Williams College for my 40th college reunion. Talk about time flying. Whoa. 40 years. 44 years give or take a few months since that first drop-off. Ditto for the orientation week known as “Freshman Days” back then (though probably no longer because, well, freshMEN), the week when I first met my classmates. I’ve written about this phenomenon before. Even in a school as tiny as the Williams of that time I really had no contact with at least 50% of my class from that early week until various reunions to come.

That was, once more, one of the themes of this reunion. “Hi, I’m Darrell. How the heck did we not know each other in school?!”. This year’s version was almost exclusively men I’d not known; past years almost exclusively women whose friendships I’d missed out on for whatever reason. Despite the lovely protestations from everyone over the years I still think these missed opportunities, and the responsibilty for the misses, is probably on me. I still think I was overly interested in myself back then. But this year brought a balancing note to those missed opportunities because a couple of people I DID know in those younger days came to this year’s festivities for the first time, or the first time in decades. What a treat to see Brenda M. and Jennie V. after so many years.

I could have spent hours with them both!

The second recurring theme this weekend was retirement. It’s a natural; we’re all in our 60’s after all. I expected to hear that most of my classmates were already retired. So many have been so very successful that it only seemed natural. Frankly I was looking forward to tapping into their experiences as Beth and I begin to plot our eventual glide path toward our retirement landing. To my surprise almost everyone (with the notable exception of my lifelong best friend Rob) was exactly where I find myself now, enjoying work and without that one thing we are looking forward to retiring TO. It was comforting to know that I wasn’t the outlier even though this is likely the best source of advice for me whenever they, and I, are ready to take that next step.

In a funny way the people who didn’t attend were in many ways at least as present at those that did. Perhaps because some of them were friends I was looking forward to seeing in real life rather than on social media, or folks who’d suggested that they might be there and I just expected to see them. Beth was curious about my friends’ and my dating back in the day (only one old flame for any of the guys was there). Where were they all? Where were the ones who’d come to Reunions in the years just after graduation but have stayed away for 5 or 10 or 30 years? Thinking about them now, they were mostly the kids who aced college. Grades, sports, romance, through the lens of 40 years gone by it seems that they were the ones who nailed the whole Williams thing. A couple of the girls I did date including my freshman crush, Jaime, come to mind. They seemed to sail peacefully and happily through our four years in Billsville.

One is left to wonder, though. Was my take on their college days accurate, and they were just so good that a reunion could only be a letdown? Or did I totally miss the boat and their experience was as varied and normal as the rest of us? Maybe secretly worse, and a reunion just opens old wounds? Funny. As we drive home it’s the classmates we didn’t see who fill our thoughts. Enough to see ourselves back in the Purple Valley 5 years hence, back to visit with the young man who left college unaware that he’d only just begun to learn who he would one day become.

To my classmates, I hope I see you long before our next Reunion. For those of you with whom I’ve become Sunday friends, well, I’ll see you next week…

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