My Father, the Blind Squirrel

November 5th, 2012 / #bliss, #family, #sports

I think I met God today.

God is an older gentleman who’s hard of hearing and has a knee brace. And yes, he was on a golf course.

Dad and I don’t golf much. But it’s a thing that’s become more and more commonplace in our lives, either as a result of my maturing or as a result of his growing acceptance that with or without him there, the restaurant can survive an afternoon in early winter. Regardless, I really like golf with Dad.

We go to a little course in Clearwater; always have. It’s changed ownership a few times over the years, but the trademark course annoyances haven’t changed. For as long as I can remember, there’s always been the long par 4 second hole with the pond on the left that beckons for your company. There’s been the hole with the punk tree right before the trap to the right of the green. And there’s been the short, deceptive par 3 that only remains in my memory because it’s the first one with an Igloo cooler of water on particularly steamy summer days. Save a line of trees here and a filled sand trap there, this has always been our little course.

We played our little course today, on November 4, 2012. Not a particularly noteworthy date for me, but it was for Dad. November 4 was his mother’s birthday, and she would have been 80 today had she not passed four months ago. Dad hadn’t mentioned that until after the round, but it seems at least tangentially relevant to this story.

After playing eleven holes of par-for-Peterson golf, Dad and I were feeling surprisingly optimistic: the weather was unseasonably nice, we were armed with fresh Diet Cokes from the bar, and we were on pace to make it home in time for football. We noticed that, after starting out from the clubhouse after nine holes, an older gentleman was on pace to drive us off the course. So, like any decent group of massively mediocre golfers, we decided to let him play through.

We finished the hole and pulled aside, waiting for him to catch up. Dad and I got involved in some conversation or other, and didn’t notice the old man’s flop shot sink into the hole from the fairway.

When he saw the man marching up to the hole without a club in hand, Dad was impressed. I was jealous.

“That’s a neat way to golf,” Dad yelled to the man.

The man didn’t hear him. It could have been because of the sounds of helicopter blades clipping the wind in the small airpark next to the course, but the man still couldn’t hear after the sounds of the chopper began to taper off. Finally, he heard.

“That’s a neat way to golf,” Dad repeated a third time. “Without a putter!”

The man smirked. I thought he was being smug. But it turns out he was just as humbled by physics.

“You know,” he said. “Every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut.”

We let him play through, and he was on the green in one stroke. I’d like to think he two-putted after that, but I know he was probably cutting through our little course like butter. Still, it’s a nice thought.

It came Dad’s turn to tee off on the hole he’d played hundreds of times before. The same hole he played when he’d pay me a nickel for every intact tee I could find in tee boxes, and a dime for every ball I could fish out of ponds and from the other side of the chain link fence along the second and third fairways.

He hauled off and split the fairway in two. Bounced once, rolled up the green, and plummeted into a hole that seemed so impossible 112 yards ago. I did all the requisite millennial customs: took a cell phone video of him discovering the ball, snapped the proudest photo I’ve ever taken, and posted to every social networking website I’m a member of. By the time I was done, the old man from the previous hole was nowhere to be seen.

We finished the round, complete with a predictable I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw inability to concentrate. Then, we went home, where Mom was waiting with a beer on ice for Ace Peterson. It was a day that played out like a child’s storybook, absolutely devoid of any conflict or difficulty. It was a perfect day that unfolded like it would if you were imagining it in a daydream while waiting to tee off.

I’m probably making too much out of this. Aces happen every day in golf courses around the world, and old dudes in knee braces can get a lucky bounce from time to time.

But, if there is a God, I think I know where he spends his Sunday afternoons. Not a bad gig.

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