If we’re lucky enough to have memories of our fathers, we’re lucky if they’re all good ones. Free-lance writer Bill Levine of Belmont, Massachusetts, has good and bad. But with Fathers Day coming up, he’s looking at the bright side.
As a grade schooler in the late 1950s, I really missed my dad on Saturdays. Dad would close down his dental practice at noon, come home and then jump into a car with Grandpa and a few racing pals and head to the local horse track.
From Mom’s grumblings, I got the idea that the so-called Sport of Kings was sleazy, so why would Dad play horses instead of playing catch at home. I later understood why when he said he bought our newspaper, the Boston Record American, because of its racing charts.
The 1960s though ushered in a new dad. We joined a nearby country club and Dad became fascinated with the backswing, instead of the back stretch. I was happier now on Saturdays because I could occasionally join him at the pool or the 19th hole grill. Unlike the mysterious touts in the world of racing, I got to know Dad’s golfing partners.
Dad and I even started to play a few holes together. This was a great father-and-son bonding activity once I learned how to replace divots. We both got a mini-workout exercise by trekking the hilly layout of the club. Undoubtedly, Dad thought this was better than watching horses exercise.
One round when I was 15 was transcendent for both of us. It was the Father/Son club tournament. This one day, Dad’s advice stuck. I didn’t pick my head up when I drove the ball and my shots went airborne. It was a “best ball” format, and we used my crushed drive off the 7th hole. We shot a 46, good enough to win. It was a highlight reel for us then, and forever, as it was our lone joint trophy.
Dad accumulated numerous trophies over next four decades though, along with a raft of golfing buddies. Eventually he left the country club but then moved to a new home, a couple of stiff three woods from The Brookline Municipal course. This became his second home.
In his 70s Dad forged a new career as a state health consultant. Whacking a Pinnacle golf ball was not a job requirement, but it helped when venders invited him to fancy courses. On one such luxe links event, Dad was gifted a set of Calloways. That was his last and best set of clubs.
About ten years after Dad acquired the Calloways, he offered me the clubs. I was saddened by the offer because Dad was now giving up golf, his sweet spot of conviviality, his athleticism gone. But bottom line, I was honored to inherit the clubs.
If Dad had stayed with the dubious Sport of Kings and fashioned a life at the track, I’m sure that his parting memento to me would have been a box full of losing pari-mutuel tickets or other heartbreaks. The clubs were much better. And meant much more.