The final day of our vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii would be open. Our flight for the Mainland not departing until later in the evening. We were scheduled to fly out around nine that final night. This gave us the entire day to enjoy something on the island before our overnight flight. With one more golf course on the list, we took advantage of the day. During our trip to Hawaii the previous year, Mauna Lani was played a second time later in the vacation. The south course had made an excellent impression the previous year. Playing the course again was looked forward to for the entire year away. It had become one of my favorite places after our two visits. My curiosity lied in the impression the course would make during this trip. There seem to be times when we experience someplace new. The destination makes a good first impression. This positive experience can leave us looking forward to placing ourselves in the same circumstance. Only as we enter into the adventure once more, maybe it doesn’t carry the same impact. The feelings of positivity and excitement may dissipate from the time away. The experience would probably still carry positive emotions, but possibly some letdown could occur. I was anxious to experience the emotions of playing Mauna Lani after a year.
The day of flying has often been challenging on my emotions. As a person who went years of experiencing fear that kept me off airplanes. Since those days, I have found medication helpful in getting me comfortably onto a flight. One anti-anxiety pill taken before boarding has proven productive. Almost like a recovery process from fear, it has been five consecutive years of air travel again. Waiting on an evening or night flight can still cause anxiety and for this trip it was our only option. So, having something to occupy my mind during the day would be productive. When flying out late from home, there are often tons of things to help keep the mind occupied. The extra day provides time to make sure everything has been packed and things around the house have been prepared. When returning home from vacation things can be slightly different. The room may be required to be vacated and the day void of an anchor point. To avoid the mind racing into fear over the impending flight, a plan was implemented. The day would be constructed around playing golf. It would help occupy the mind, while taking up much of the afternoon. The hope was Mauna Lani would have the same calming impact as the prior year. There would be some weight riding on the golf course that afternoon. Hopefully providing some escape from thinking about flying home. The day couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
We woke up to an ideal day in Hawaii. The winds were calm, as we got packed up. Our drive to Mauna Lani would be shorter than the other two courses played. Just up the highway about five minutes. The parking lot was relatively quiet. Arriving with plenty of time before we were to begin. There wasn’t any rush, as we pulled into a parking stall covered in shade. The golf shop felt familiar upon entry with nothing changing during the year absence. The bank of windows behind the check-in desk casting the same sundrenched view of the green fairways. We got all checked-in to our starting time, descending the staircase to find our golf cars. Still with ample time to get ready, we drove out to the range for some swings. The range was quiet during the late morning. With views, back up into the hills of the inland landscape. We found a couple other players on the range. The quiet provided ample options to spread out and get prepared. The heat of the island making this process easier. The sun loosening the bones, making even the first couple swings enjoyable. After working my way through the four-club rotation used for most pre-round warmups, it was nearing the start. We drove back around the clubhouse at Mauna Lani. The starter greeted us and sent us onto the south course. Under the crisp blue Hawaiian sky, with little wind to speak of, we began the final round of our trip.
Mauna Lani provided the familiar feelings of comfort from the first hole. The first on the south course doglegs to the right. The par-5 gives the golfer a warm welcome with its wide fairway. My drive found the middle at the pivot point of the hole. Moving from the soft directional change, the hole gives an inviting look at the large green. Bordering the latter part of the fairway sit a group of homes. As we finished our putting on the green, laughter was coming from a large group enjoying the pool of their home. The sound of their enjoyment brought a smile, while we drove to the second tee box. Our round got off to a quick start through the beginning few holes. Feeling like we were being pushed from behind, while attempting to maintain distance from the group in front. The situation was getting a bit anxious for me. The disability can cause me insecurity in these situations. Wondering whether my pace was slowing us down, until we found the reason on the sixth. The hole was backed up with a couple large groups playing in front. With the knowledge set out for everyone to see, my nervousness disappeared over the pace, and enjoyment began taking hold. The following hole took us out to the ocean for the first time of the day. The par-3 seventh runs along the Pacific with striking sights of the bay. Waiting on the tee provided time to enjoy the view. The players behind pulled up and exchanged greetings, noticing the Seattle Mariners towel on my golf bag. They had traveled to the island from the Seattle area as well. Soon it was time to strike my shot, landing safely on the green. The first ocean hole was completed and we headed back inland to conclude the first nine holes.
The inward nine of the south course has some of the most exciting holes. Two of them run along the ocean and a third begins from the water’s edge before guiding the golfer inland. Our second nine began with a well-established steady pace from the front side. The hope was for the last nine holes to require a bit more time than the first. As we had the entire day without any place to be. The ocean reappeared on the twelfth hole. The par-3 gave a continues view down the thirteenth and onto the Pacific. We played the short twelfth with a pond guarding the right side. Then, it was on to the par-4 thirteenth taking us down along the edge of the ocean. The calm wind made its way off the water, cooling the warm temperature. We looked out from the fairway to watch a couple catamarans enjoying their day at sea. The thirteenth took us slightly down the hill to a green resting just feet from the crashing waves. From there, we moved back inland for another par-4, then back out to the Pacific for the signature fifteenth. One of the more spectacular holes in the world. The par-3 stretching over a small bay and this was the place my day got interesting. My shot cleared the waves rolling into the rock and the hole yielded a bogy, before I was struck by something unexpected. The group behind us inquired to my mother about my disability. Asking if I had cerebral palsy after having watched me play golf all day. They were impressed by my ability to play, telling my mom I appeared to move about pretty well. It was on the following hole when the information was relayed. The conversation brought about some interesting emotions inside. Things not felt in some time, if possibly never really felt with appreciation before. This place has seemed to become something special.
Hearing of the comments made from the group behind brought on positive emotions. Cerebral palsy could have been allowed to win the battle over my body long ago. When my shoulder was hurting too much to swing a golf club. Or, allowing fear of the unknown to keep me from the chiropractic help of Dr. McCracken. There have been times of pain where sinking into depression felt like the easier way, siting on the couch and blaming my disability. But, the more challenging path yields the most reward. Those comments from people simply watching me play golf help me forge ahead. They indicate that even when it may not feel like it, the battle with cerebral palsy continues to be won. Without the work of Dr. McCracken and the training with Bernard, those encouraging comments probably don’t take place. Not to mention the gift of playing the south course of Mauna Lani. The only thing I wished was to be involved with the conversation. The opinions these women gave my mother were so positive and uplifting for me. It made me curious about other things they might have been feeling. Their thoughts could have taken us down the road of positive conversation. In wondering about why this interaction took place the way it did. There could have been apprehension involved in beginning a conversation with me. Not knowing how to approach the topic of my disability, wondering if it would be offensive. After a life with cerebral palsy it feels totally understandable. I just hope that barrier of fear we both probably contribute to slowly disappears. Parts of it falls on me, working on being more open about my disability. It continues to be worked on, but I appreciate their strength for even speaking to my mom. Otherwise, we would never have known the impact of simply playing a game.
The moments like these, hearing the story from my mother, slowly ease pain not often spoken about. Having a disability seems to provide challenges all to its own. For every questioning look about what might be “wrong” with me, or each judgment over the way I speak. The seemingly wonderment around my intellectual level. Every subtle or not so subtle judgment coming the way of someone disabled. Not to mention the other extreme, being told I’m too functional and seemingly athletic to understand the challenges of CP. For all the garbage, out there in the world around disabilities. There always seem far too few good moments like this occurrence on the golf course of Mauna Lani. These small gestures make every challenge taken on worthwhile. It shows the effort required to restrain from giving in or giving up can someday be impactful. My wish would be they know the struggling situations in life they erase with one interaction. Along with the motivation they provide to continue striving forward. The biggest gift of having cerebral palsy has been the ability to make an impact. My hope has always been to make that impact positive. Showing there are ways to live a good life while being disabled.
The day on the south course of Mauna Lani proved to be an excellent way of ending vacation. There was little to no breeze through our round of golf. Leaving us to enjoy the warmth before flying home to the rainy cold of winter in Seattle. The calm emotions surrounded the two rounds from the previous year appeared quickly. As the first hole brought the feeling streaming back. Accentuated by the good time vibes witnessed around the pool of one of the homes. It all brought the comfort of arriving at one of my favorite places back. The lush green of the fairway made each shot exciting to strike. Getting the true crisp contact that comes with playing in the tropical paradise. For moments even forgetting we had to depart the island in just a few short hours. The holes along the ocean provided the majestic view that never truly disappoints. Little did I know something else would be in store on that day. The group playing just behind taking notice of the work placed into just being out there playing golf. Getting to enjoy Mauna Lani for the past two years has been a blessing. Playing golf along the ocean has its own unique experience and facing the challenge of cerebral palsy becomes more than worth it in these moments. The south course was an awesome way to cap an amazing trip. It has always been such a blessing to have these experiences.