Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Archive for June, 2021

A Brief Father’s Day Visit From My Dad

Jason Gay, the WSJ sports columnist/comic relief editorialist gets it. He gets Father’s Day. No escape to the golf course or tennis courts for him. Jason is the father of two. No communing with the boys fishing or tearing up the backcountry on a bike for Jason. His idea of a great Father’s Day is to get his hands dirty in the act of being a Dad. Makes some muffins and mess up the kitchen. Pretend to plant some flowers so you can dig in the mud. Raining out? No problem. Rain means puddles to splash around in with the kids.

I like to think of Father’s Day as the day when I get to hang with my kids and just be Dad. It’ll be a bit weird this year as the gang is even more spread out than usual. Randy and Beth just landed in Florida with L’il Bug in preparation for an appointment early tomorrow morning. Megan is home in the Low Country, gearing up for a work week while keeping a watchful eye on her growing family of alligators in the back yard. Dan is hopefully going to get a few hours off (young lawyers don’t really have days off!) to chase after his two bundles of joy. I’ve heard from them all. My “extras” Alex and Whitney have checked in, too.

Being a Dad (and a Papi) is a joy!

Tomorrow, the day after Father’s Day, my Dad would have been 90. Father’s Day with him when my brother and I were young was pretty special. Dad was an incredible golfer; he gifted the game to my brother and me when we were quite young. We got to share golf with him on Father’s Day by caddying for him and three of his close friends until we were old enough to join him and one special buddy (my brother’s favorite loop) for a round. Randall and I got to see our Dad in his element, surrounded by loyal friends and joyful at his good fortune.

It’s been almost 6 years now since my Dad died. Six years since I’ve been able to wish him a Happy Birthday, a Happy Father’s Day. I think of him often, as I do my Father-in-Law who passed away in 2017. Here is what I wrote after visiting my Dad on Father’s Day, the last time I visited him for his Birthday, re-printed on Father’s Day as I’ve done each year since:

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.

Sunday musings…6/13/2021

1 He-Hem. What’s necessary on a pair of pants for an under-tall male.

Not to be completed until the sewing machine is necessary to make curtains for a She-Shed.

2 Snaffle. A particular type of bit, or mouthpiece, that connects a horse with a rider.

Really should be a snack food, don’t you think? Like, I dunno, a Snickers-flavored waffle or something.

3 Valet. Each year I either acquire a different nickname/role as the non-riding spouse of an amateur dressage rider. I’ve been jokingly referred to as The Breeder (kinda fun wearing my hat to non-horsey events), The Collector (a terrible role: you have more horses than you have use for), The Trader (you buy and sell horses; I actually find this one fascinating and would like to continue wearing this one), and for at least the first show of the year, The Valet (I brought chilled wine to celebrate the first post-lockdown show).

Everyone needs a role, right?

4 Competitor. Boy, it’s been a really long time since I’ve competed in anything with any kind or real intent. Might have been 2003 or so. My brother and I played in a golf tournament. We were inexplicably insulted by the pro a couple of months prior to the event. This turned what should have been at most a semi-serious hits and giggles fest into a grim, full-on, trample the injured/hurdle the dead effort to not only win but win big.

We both knew how to do that, and we did, indeed, run away from the field.

The point is more about us being super comfortable competing. Being in the arena and not finding it the least bit daunting to be either judged or measured. We’ve never competed in anything where we had either complex equipment (driving race cars, for instance) or animals to depend on (no Iditarod). At the moment I am writing from a spot in the shade across from stables in which millions of dollars of horseflesh stands ready to compete. The equestrian world contains both professional and amateur riders (the competitors), trainers of both who may or may not compete personally, and a category that is completely foreign to me: owner.

Now to be honest, as The Trader I’m not really unfamiliar with the concept of “owner” I guess. Beth does not ride the horses we trade (the pros do), and I, of course, do not ride at all. But we would not be in this world at all if Beth was not riding and competing. Indeed, we entered this world 20+ years ago with Lovely Daughter Megan. When I asked our trainer about this phenomenon, the non-riding or infrequently riding owner, his answer was that competing was so daunting for some riders that it literally makes them ill.

I guess I understand this, at least in the abstract. It’s just so foreign to me as a lifelong competitor in something or another. To be honest, not having a competitive outlet, a physical, athletic competitive outlet, has left a huge hole in my life. It’s not about winning or losing; that golf tournament where I really burned to win was an anomaly in my adult life. But I’d love to have something active where I got those little butterflies before the game, where I tuned in and automatically became laser-focused during the match. Love to have something to sit back and replay over a beer or glass of wine. Maybe even have my own Valet to provide the libations.

For competitors it’s OK to get butterflies in your stomach, as long as you can get them to fly in formation!

The non-riding owners are very nice people, and if they need a little encouragement or a kind-hearted push or shove, I’m there for them, however little understanding I have of their motivations or mindset. For some people those pre-game jitters are more pterodactyl than butterfly. It makes little sense to do something that makes you unhappy, however much being another non-competing part of that something might make them happy.

It’s just that seeing them there, so close to it, whatever it is, and not being able to get to the starting line…well…I think it will always make me a little sad for them. Or more accurately, a little sad for me. If I had that one thing I loved, that thing I loved being around, no matter what it was, I’d have filled that hole that’s been open and waiting to be filled for so very, very long.

I’d have jumped at the chance to once again saddle up myself, enter the ring, and be a competitor.

I’ll see you next week…

You are currently browsing the Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind blog archives for June, 2021.