Monday, May 27, 2013

Golf Lessons

"You are swinging with your arms. Your legs are lagging behind."

Heeding my advise, my friend stepped up to the ball. His body now in harmony, the swing was fluid, the sound pure, the flight majestic

"Why didn't you say that 8 holes before?"

"How about 50 years" I replied.

Housing after WWII was impossible to find. The resources of the nation had been consumed for four years not with the construction of buildings but the destruction of an enemy. So, in 1945 when my mother and father married, they did not move into their own apartment but to the residence of my dad's parents. There they would remain, a group of five, including my grandparent's omnipresent dog Terri, for three years.

In 1948 a two story housing complex arose in a small town in Bergen County, New Jersey. It was here, finally,that the not so newlyweds were able to settle into a home of their own. And it was here that a life long friendship with another young married couple was born.

It had been two years since my friend last swung a golf club in anger, frustration or joy. And it had been two years since my wife and I last visited. The confluence of these events was not a coincidence.

My parents and their new best friends remained in that same town for over 30 years. My friend's parents were both striking, his mom a great beauty,  his dad movie star handsome. They were a great team of four, making many life choices in tandem. They vacationed together, sent their children to the same camps and schools. And,oh yes, joined the same golf club.

From the early 1960's on, most weekends were spent in the unattainable pursuit of golfing perfection. My dad was a natural athlete and flirted with scores under 80. His best friend was good but not quite of the same aptitude. But it mattered little for, in the end, the game humbles everyone in virtually equal measure.

It was in this world that two young boys grew up. On the course, our trajectories somewhat mirrored that of our fathers.  He was good, I was a little better. Neither of us were truly distinguished and golf was not going to lead either of us to fame or fortune.

We were friends by virtue of our parents whether we liked it or not. But we did enjoy each other's company, and spent much time together of our own volition.

Time and circumstance would change our relationship.  In 1972, my friend moved to California for graduate school and the East coast was left in his rear view mirror. He and his new bride settled in, while my wife and I remained 3000 miles away, in the same county where, so many years earlier, two young couples established their lives.

For many years our contact was sparse. My dad passed away at 61 years of age in 1979. 14 years later, my friend's died at 71. Shortly after, I received  a call. "I have all of these frequent flyer miles. You have to come out. You have to."

Sonoma County is located in Northern California, about an hour and a half drive from San Francisco. I am told that the winter months can be unpleasant, as cold and rain descend. But I wouldn't know.  During the past two decades of almost annual spring or summer visits,  I have been witness only to an unremittingly beautiful blue sky.

On the 10th, 11th and 12th  holes, his drives split the middle of the fairway. At its best, his swing is graceful, almost elegant. The rhythm and flow seem without effort. But it was never a consistent presence, even in the best of times. And though he has lived in a place where there is little excuse for not playing,  my friend found ample reason. His clubs lay mostly unused. They only emerged from hiding on any consistent basis over the  past 20 years during the times of my visit.

By the 13th hole the bad swing reemerged. One drive a duck hook, the next floating lazily to the right. The  effect of my suggestion was evident no more, and would not return. The holes merely served as reminder why the clubs had so long been in hibernation.

Through our own triumphs, trials and tribulations, my friend and I remain a constant. It is in the memory of those two young couples who found each other in 1948 that there is the glue that binds us. It is in honor of those we loved  and who loved one another that we spend our days continuing to do what neither of us really do very well and never will.

As we finish the round and count up the alarmingly large number of strokes we know accomplishments of the day are of little note.  We will be out there again tomorrow clear in the knowledge that the perfect swing may forever elude us but that lessons of the day have nothing to do with golf.


Anonymous said...

A faithful friend is the medicine of life....and you are that friend.

diane said...

Wonderful description of a life-long friendship. How fortunate you two are. Great to see you and joJo.
D & M

Anonymous said...

Another great epitome, this time to a lifelong friend ship. May they last forever.