The snow flurries are flying today as I drive past the golf course. The fairways look desolate as the trees have dropped their leaves. The pins are still in, but they look cold and alone and exposed -- like a homeless person slumping with his back against the whip of the wind. Once December blows in, the squirrels have the course to themselves. When I see the snow gathering at the edges of the sand traps, the thought flashes that it will be about 5 months until I get to join the squirrels again on the course. The groundhogs and my clubs are going into winter hibernation.
Chicago winters can be harsh. As I get older, they seem to get longer as well. When I was young, December was the time when the boards went up and outdoor skating rinks got flooded. I couldn't wait to steel-wool the rust off the blades on my hockey skates and sharpen the edges. I looked forward to hearing forecasts of big snows that would blanket the ski slopes just north of the Wisconsin border. The ideal temperature for me would be in the 20's -- cold enough to keep the ice hard and the snow fluffy, yet warm enough to keep my toes and ears from being frostbitten. On the warm days, we could always have snowball fights.
Hockey, skiing, snowballing. Winter used to give -- now it just seems to take.
Seeing my clubs settle into the dark, deep freeze of the garage, I drift back to the days when the course was green and lush, not white and barren. Those were the days, my friend. Nothing could beat those times playing the links with our kids who are all grown up.
Our youngest at 19-years-old, Ben is close to being a scratch golfer. He got his first hole-in-one this year in a college golf match. We've switched roles as he now gives me swing tips, drives the cart, and has the best gear. I couldn't be happier. In a mutually beneficial relationship...He gives me 6 a side and I've been like an on-course ATM for him, while he's been the best golf buddy I could ever wish for.
Maggie, 21, is a natural athlete. Despite never taking a single golf lesson, she's the ringer in our family because from the ladies tees, Mags can drive the par 4's. She shot her best scores ever this summer. It's a thrill for me to see her uniquely pure joy unleashed from a great shot. She skips, she laughs, she throws her arms...She delights.
Jay's the oldest at 23. He lives and works in Milwaukee these days but gets back to get out with us when he can. The Jaybird played on the high school golf team so he's got game. And when it was on display this year and his fun, competitive glow was going, he was a special riot to be around.
I'll warm myself with all those memories during these cold months when the snow, shovel, and salt step in for the sun, club, and ball. Even the long Chicago winter can't take that from me.