Wednesday, July 3, 2013

There will be golf

On my father's first birthday,
his father presented him with
a golf club; and today, still,
not far from this desk, his 
classic putter greets me at
my bookshelves. But this is
not the club I mean. I mean
a private golf course created
with friends, to circumvent
their wives' sometimes irri-
tating propensity to strike a
better shot. My grandmother
was a gifted athlete, but that
was not an era ruled by Title
IX, and couples took a dif-
ferent view of discretionary

Indeed, my father grew up in 
a plenitude of settings for
pursuing what clicked as his
lifelong passion - to all
who knew him, his lease on 
this life - and a surprising
space for solitude was pre-
served in his relationships.

This, I get. He would be 99
today, and his swing would
still outclass mine off the
tee. But, I can't presume
to share, so much as merely
to confess to our joy in the
refuge of this game: its won-
derfully fair genius for re-
warding form. It is a prom-
ise he accepted as a boy in
Latin School, and trusted be-
yond every seduction of al-
ternative reward, including
everything offering an anal-
ogy or proof of what counts.
Now, I apprehend an edge of
aloofness in this vivacious
attachment, which is probably
a defect of my own semantics.

He would manifest the beau-
tiful project of being, in
the most insouciant touch I
have ever seen behind an arc
of a radius upon a sphere. Of
many years ago, I have memory
of gaping, with his own peers,
at the mastery of the unnatural
stroke of golf, as the most ob-
vious remedy of the circle. A
filial resignation mixes often
with remembrance of bright fact.

This, too. I regret now to
hear it said, that the most,
as well as the least benefi-
cent dispensations of life
are indifferent to form. Of
course this is the signature
boast of decadent wealth and
vulgar envy, masquerading
these days as Conservatism.
And it is true, Ben Hogan
could have impoverished him-
self without the help of a
Greyhound bus, by simply
living as a man of trust.
He had, therefore, to be
better than those who were
not of belief, even in the
craft of playing well.

For golf, for Horace, for
an English dog, we do not
have to apologise. Against
a gentlemanly way in other
settings, brute authorities 
obtrude. The idea is not to
escape them, but to isolate

In most of his gifts to me, 
like his father's to him,
naïveté was seldom at play.
I think this is ordinary.
When my father, at the age
of 1, inherited a golf club
created in the image of one
aspiration, it was the one
he built into me, without
resistance. On his birthday,
I do not wish to give an im-
pression of summation, for
I renounce the thought. But
from his inner time it would be
unthinkably uncelebratory not
to salvage certain treasure,
which somehow can't help
sounding as if it had tumbled
from an Edwardian picnic ham-
per, like the ripened crenshaw
melon that was his cardinal
stipulation for our breakfast
on this day. But these are not
edicts, just inferences drawn
from observing his game - don't 
mistake an image for the matter;
hold to the form, rehearse it
even when it can't be seen or
heard. Study the lie, but play
the ball. 

And you may indulge yourself
a hug, in front of everyone.

Is that it?


  1. Beautiful, all of this. So is July third your father's birthday, then? It is mine; he would have been seventy-three today. Grand fellow.

    1. Thank you for visiting and for sharing this happy coincidence!

  2. Replies
    1. A "city of coffee" welcome to be part of the celebration. Thank you for coming.