Copyright 2010 by Peter Merkl
Heaven knows we can’t
help what we love, and my father loved golf. He naturally assumed
that his teenage son would too. But, as much as I liked being with
him, I’ve always loathed the game, and it showed in the quality
of my play. Of all our misadventures on the links, one lives on in my
most vivid nightmares.
For the thousandth time, I
stood forlornly over the ball as dad began his tireless litany, “Head
down, eye on the ball, left arm straight, hips loose as a goose (then
he’d shimmy like Shakira), back swing low and slow, swing
through the ball.” It was like driving a car while reading the
owner’s manual and resulted in a herky-jerky swing that
produced a ball flight consistent only in its absolute
unpredictability. I was just about to hit my drive, when I
noticed a course employee had stopped his maintenance cart on
the path about 100 yards ahead of us. I waved him on, but he
motioned for me to go ahead and hit. My father told me to swing away,
there was no way I’d hit him.
Like a dimpled laser beam, the ball’s trajectory varied nary an inch in any direction. The worker dove head-first from the cart, like Pete Rose sliding into second. There was a loud clang as the ball hit the metal fender inches from where he’d been sitting. He quickly got to his feet, yelling and angrily gesturing at me.
Cynics say that parents,
like my father, who push children in the direction of their own
broken dreams are trying to live through their kids. The truth is,
they want their kids’ lives to be perfect. And those childhood
dreams of playing center field for the Astros, dancing on Broadway,
or playing on the PGA tour are still our ideal of perfection. So,
push them we do. I ruined tennis for both my kids when they were
little by doing just that.
And then one December day
when he was 15, my son, Matt, announced he was going to try out for
his high school golf team, despite the fact that he’d never
played a round of golf in his life. I went into full parent freak out
mode and bought him a specially weighted, caution-tape yellow,
training golf club I’d found on the web. When I proudly gave it
to him Christmas morning, he looked at it like I’d just handed
him a new algebra book.
The next day, I dragged him to a driving range. As he stood forlornly over the ball holding the ridiculous yellow club, I heard myself, as if from a far distance, saying, “Head down, eye on the ball, left arm straight, hips loose as a goose (and then I shimmied like Shakira), back swing low and….” I stared out at the horizon for a few seconds, told him I wasn’t feeling well, and walked slowly to the car where I sat and watched him flail happily away at the whole bucket of balls using my old clubs.
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