Thirty-seven years was all it took. There seems to be things that bring people together. They find a commonality that may have been shared for years. That commonality in our family has always been the game of golf. It’s the activity shared not only with my brother, but also with my father. If anything was going to truly begin bringing dad back into my life, it would be done eighteen holes at a time. This week our journey seemed to begin in earnest. As we drove almost two hours to play golf with my father. The day would be challenged by a few different factors. Not only was the game going to be challenging, the course would be difficult, the weather in March would be dicey, and the relationship was shaky. But, after spending some time with my father during a fall wedding, it was time to try again. Golf would be the natural way to attempt another step with the relationship. The three of us met at McCormick Woods golf course for our first round of golf in many years. Arriving at the golf course that morning was filled with anxiety over seeing dad. We drove up to the first tee and there was no turning back. Hopefully these interactions would be positive.
Healing is the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again. It seems anytime our relationships become fractured, the process of healing can transform the relationship. Without taking the time for this process things probably remain similar. The journey also seems to involve growth within the relationship. Growth can entail looking at your relationship through a different prism. For me, the relationship with my dad seemed to require more of everything. It took setting out to achieve more understanding and more patience. The requirements were changing for the bond to work. There have always been questions about whether I could grow and change. But, it felt important to continue putting forth the effort. With the concept of effort in mind, the chance was taken on a round of golf together. There was no understanding of what a successful day might look like. This day would be spending more time with dad than had been spent in years.
The weather was going to be interesting on this day. There could be snow during our round, as the temperatures hovered around freezing. So, we layered up in our dress to brave the elements. The only article of clothing missing for me was a beanie cap. We had played golf in some snow the year prior and my beanie cap that was purchased after nine holes, saved the round. The warmth those caps provide shouldn’t be underestimated. Upon heading for the golf course, my beanie couldn’t be found. Our plan would be to pick one up at the golf course before our round of golf began. We set out on the two-hour drive under threatening skies. In fact, the rain had been coming down all morning, but the weather was supposed to improve as the day wore on. It poured rain in pockets during the journey to McCormick Woods. We even encountered a touch of snow driving over what would be best described as a tall hill. However, by the time we drove into the golf course, there was no sign of rain. The clouds were heavy overhead, but held the moisture as our day began.
Arriving at McCormick Woods brought feelings of positive familiarity. The course has been one of my favorites since playing it for the first time. That calm feeling of excitement always fills me driving into the facility. There is always hope of playing well on the interesting layout. As we got out of the car and began getting organized, the cold couldn’t be ignored. Not only was the temperature in the high 30’s, but the wind added an uncomfortable bite. Walking toward the golf shop had me sending up a little prayer in hopes they had a beanie cap for purchase. It was the first question asked by my brother and to my relief they had some to choose from. The second beanie pointed out to us would be an awesome fit. It wasn’t anything to be settle for, as can be the case when putting yourself in a predicament like this one. The beanie was one I would have picked for myself in any circumstance. This beanie cap was in my favorite color of blue, with the McCormick Woods emblem on the front. So, now I had a cap in my favorite color from one of my favorite courses. We preceded to pay for our rounds of golf and head back out into the cold.
Arriving outside to get our golf cart loaded, my hat was turned in for the new purchased beanie. Following the exchange of headgear, my body became filled with more warmth. With the calm warmth inside my body, dad was greeted with a hug. We exchanged some small talk before driving over toward the practice putting green to gage the green speeds. Once a few golf balls were struck, we headed for the first tee and started our day. My brother and father played off the white tee box, as I went from the forward teeing ground. Everyone got off the first tee box in satisfactory condition and off we went to see McCormick Woods. Working through the first few holes often presents itself as a feeling out process. You’re feeling out how your golf game will be for the day, along with the interaction with those around. For me, it was getting an idea of how the interaction with my father would work. We hadn’t played golf together in years or spent much time in the company of each other. Those few holes began on the awkward side, but soon relaxed into an understanding of communication. The interaction seemed to settle into a pattern better than anticipated.
As our round progressed, so did the bonding. Beginning with normal things being said on the golf course. We recognized good shots from every player in the group. Soon, side conversation could be heard between everyone. Still, the interactions stuck close to the topic of our golf game. The challenging hole came and went, with solid play. There were cool moments, as long putts and birdies were made. The comfort of being with each other on the golf course eventually lead to some light-hearted moments of laughter. Then we hit the frigid moment in the middle of our round. Around the thirteenth hole, the temperature plummeted. We were surrounded by sleet falling sideways in the wind. If the precipitation didn’t stop, surviving our round would come into question. However, it moved past us almost as quickly as the sheets of sleet had arrived. By the time thirteen was completed, sun was beginning to poke through the clouds again. We didn’t see any more precipitation as we finished our day of golf, but temperatures remained chilly.
While standing on the tee box of that chilly thirteenth hole, my father walked up. He didn’t know if it mattered, but wanted to let me know I was beating him. With the sleet starting to fall, my reply was that of course it matters, he’s my father. It was something that didn’t quite strike me in the moment. But, as the back nine progressed, it became part of my thought process. Never did I really think about having the opportunity to beat my dad at the game he taught me to play. This was a new situation to find myself in and added another element to the remaining holes. The concentration around my game turned up a level. More attention was being paid to each shot I was striking. I also found myself paying closer attention to the play of my father. We wound our way through the final few holes under the cold sunshine. My shots began improving with the added concentration. Who knew if this opportunity would come around again and it deserved all my effort. Trying to convince myself it wasn’t a big deal wouldn’t work. I wanted to beat my dad!
It seems most kids would like to beat their father at a game they share. Whether golf, basketball, tennis, or maybe skiing down the hill with a quicker pace. We’ve heard of it as almost being a rite of passage. However, for me it didn’t feel possible to compete with him. My cerebral palsy would seemingly always hold me back from accomplishing that milestone. I would hear about friends having defeated their father at games early in life. It always kind of caused sadness to figure that feeling just wasn’t likely to happen. So, while growing up and playing golf with my dad, beating him was something I put out of mind. Even while playing golf this week the possibility didn’t enter into my thinking. It caught me off guard when he brought it up during the round. Sure enough, when we finished up on eighteen it was something I wanted to know. After tallying up the scores, the milestone was accomplished. At 37 years of age my dad was beaten by me for the first time. It was kind of a surreal moment, as we shook hands. The moment also signified how important it can be not to give up on yourself. Bettering my father truly wasn’t part of the thought process on that day, the idea had been given up long ago. But, continuing to battle cerebral palsy, becoming stronger, and a better golfer, all lead to an accomplishment that didn’t seem possible. If we keep working at whatever ails us, who knows what could become within reach.
Defeating my dad for the first time only seemed a sidelight to the more important accomplishment. The process of finding a workable future for our relationship. There had to be growth and acceptance to move forward. For years, my bond with my father has been challenging. But, even spending years without much communication, it was always being worked through. That work being done when no one was looking lead to a positive round of golf this week. We were able to communicate more freely. Even spending time laughing and joking in moments. The dynamic inside our relationship had changed over time. With new boundaries and expectations beginning to be implemented, the reconnection seems possible. It was a good first step and the decision to play golf provided some comfort as our backdrop. The game was positive enough to make another attempt. So, in due time we will seemingly gather again for another round of golf together. These days of golf might help the healing of this relationship. It will most likely never be the same, but anything positively functioning seems better than no relationship at all.
The journey home was one of satisfaction. There had been risk in traveling to play golf with my father. Not the risk of bodily harm, but of becoming emotionally injured. The experience could have only widened the gap in our relationship. As we moved from one highway to the next, my emotions were of thanks for the way things had turned out. It had turned into a day of building rather than continuing to tear done. The relationship will continue to be challenging I know. As, everything inside troubled situations isn’t worked out in four hours. Dad wanted a chance at redemption after being smoked by his oldest son. But, more importantly we all liked the idea of playing again in a few months. Sometimes this life we live becomes surprising. Relationships can change and develop if they are given time, providing the connection that works. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work on developing the relationship with my dad. This day gave me hope that another round of golf might move things further forward. We drove on into the evening after a better day than expected. My attention moved from the good day of golf toward an evening of March Madness.