Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A story that could be true

I took Colm with me to our faculty golf scramble on Monday. He was excited to get the chance to hit some balls. The big bonus was the golf cart. Normally I walk the course but since everyone in this event used a cart, I followed suit. Colm was elated to have the chance to steer as we wound our way from one tee box to the next.
While I played my game with my partners, Colm played his game which consisted of jumping out of the cart and knocking a couple of balls around until it was time to load up and ride to the next stopping point.
I started well, so well in fact that Colm noticed. "You're the only one who can hit the ball in the hole," he whispered to me as we climbed in the cart and headed for the third tee. I allowed his comment to pass unchallenged and basked a little in our little father son moment.
A couple of holes later, I was hitting the ball much worse but Colm's attention had long since wandered off to other zones. My reputation (with Colm at least) was intact.
By the time the round was finished we had all regrouped at the clubhouse for a potluck and barbecue and beers. Colm got tired of waiting, however and, since he was the only kid there, I let him take a club and some balls down to the practice green just below the deck where we adults were gathered.
I watched him down there, alone on the manicured grass, his shadow tilting away from the sun which itself was settling down softly on the hilltops. He set down a ball and swung. The ball flew out of the grass like a startled bird and then dove down out of sight beyond the green.
Behind me, the high school staff were distributing prizes for sundry exploits on the course. It was a garrulous group. There were prizes for longest drive, closest to the pin, most divots...each little announcement brought a round of cheers.
I watched Colm who seemed to be in search of a lost ball now. He looked up at me, it seemed, quizzically. I wondered if he was getting discouraged. It so happened that I had a ball in my pocket so I fished it out, waved my hand to Colm and then tossed the ball to him. It landed on the green and rolled past him within easy reach. Colm went to it and lined up another shot. I sat there neither with my son nor with my colleagues.
A few minutes later, Colm and I sat just the two of us at a table on the clubhouse deck. We ate in silence, chewing large mouthfuls hungrily. Colm had both hands wrapped around his burger, which hung open at the other end like a mouth agape.
Colm said, "Daddy?"
"I was thinking. If the people were watching me hit a good shot and they were clapping because I hit it."
His expression was devoid of anything I might recognize as vanity. Rather, it seemed mostly curious and tinged ever so lightly with wonderment.
A voice in my head, had already unpacked the riddling moment. They had been jokingly mocking each other's inept and comedic moments on the golf course, they hadn't even noticed Colm down on the green ensconsed in his own private emerald reverie. The swish of the steel on blades of grass, the soft yet solid contact with the ball, the mysterious reach of his arms and his hands communicated to a little white ball...all of that had been interrupted by clamorous voices coming from above him. Childlike perhaps of him to wonder if it was all about him. I started to mention the prizes and then stopped myself....I answered my fatherly calling as well as I knew how.
"Do you think they saw you hit some good shots?"
Colm nodded.
"If they did, then I'm sure they would have clapped. I know that I did." Colm seemed satisfied for he returned almost without interruption to his burger.
It was just an idle moment in the midst of the serious business of eating, but I chewed on it long after I'd had my fill.


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