Teeing Off  

Long before 2013, my dad's balance became so unsteady that he had to stop golfing — the one activity that got him out of the house and into the world of sport he loved so much. 

 

Teeing Off (2013)

 

Dad, in my mind's eye I see you there on the 18th tee

standing unsteadily

sometimes not even sure if you’re on the tee

(or somewhere else

deep in left field

or centre ice

hovering uncertainly)

above the ball with its million dimples

 

I too will be there, tottering, just as your father was

and his father before that

and his father before that

all the begats of England and Scotland

back to the links course in Saint Andrews

with its wooden clubs

and its whiskey on the 19th hole

 

I remember how uncertain I used to be on the first tee

back in the 90s.

You only encouraged me,

as on the ice, the diamond, and badminton court.

I remember the pints of beer on the 19th hole

with your friend Stan, who tried to tell you about the books he read

in his thin whisper of a voice.

You would sit looking at him, smiling, as good as deaf,

next to a bowl of peanuts, chips, and Canterbury beer.

 

I remember the holes in between

especially the one with the cliff on the left

and the ocean beckoning the golf ball like a siren

into the waves that spread out across the horizon

like a million dimples

And I remember the next three holes

with the ocean surrounding us

with the salt air

and the green turf beneath our feet.

It seemed we had all the time in the world.

Yet now, like Hamlet, I know not seems

and at my back I truly hear

Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near*

 

Blinded by the sadness of the moment

I can only think of the 18th hole

and how painful it will be

to watch you zigzagging to the green

 

I'm deaf to the wisdom of Shakespeare

But you must know your father lost a father

That father lost, lost his ...

ad infinitum

past Saint Andrews

through Stonehenge and Sumer

all the way to Olduvai Gorge

 

I grit my teeth

suppress the tears that keep blurring the screen

and focus on the tee

which is also the drop of the puck

the ball flying downward from the mound

and the feather bird slipping between the fingers

 

I imagine us on the 18th tee

myself in the skin of my father

as he once was, as I am now

as he is now, weak and fragile, as I will be

and swing

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* hurrying near — from "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell (1621-78)

 

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