I wrote this on a Labor Day weekend, a few years ago and today, on the eve of this weekend that signals the end of summer, I sit here and reflect on what those weekends meant to me.
Melancholy has a way of creeping into my brain on the eve of this weekend. On this night, chances are Joanie and I would have been on the road headed for Minneapolis and St. Paul with a stop in St. Cloud at Joe and Joni’s.
I read this again, and really couldn’t think of much I would change about it, so I post it again as a reflection on happier times.
Both Joanie and my youngest sister, Joni, are gone now, and I think that adds to the bittersweet remembrance that comes to me every year about this time.
If I never hear another politician or motivational speaker use football or baseball as an analogy for living, striving, or in celebration of some feat that has been accomplished, it will be too soon.
It’s time they learn that the only sport that should be used when making these comparisons is—-are you ready for this? Golf.
Yes golf. That much misunderstood and often derided game is the only sport that approximates life as we know it.
It has all of the dynamics and frustrations of life, and all of the big and small rewards as well.
Picking up a golf club and going to a course for the first time is like being born. You play the course as you find it and the ball as it lies. In life that’s exactly what one does as well.
Golf has to be learned, and can never be mastered no matter how much or how long you play. Life is like that.
Golf is an individual game where you play against the course, and there is nobody to rely on but yourself. Life is like that in the final analysis.
Every course is different, and every day on every course is different. In life every place is different and every day in every place is different.
In golf there are penalties for straying off the fairway too far, or going out of bounds, or landing in the water. Life has its penalties as well.
Golf is anxiety producing, like many events in life. Just ask anyone who hasn’t played that much what it feels like on the first tee when there is a crowd around and all you hope to is get the ball down the fairway a bit and not dribble it off the tee five yards or so. Life has many events exactly like that such as heading for that first job interview.
Golf is a mental game in that you can talk yourself into trouble, and you can make mistakes that cost you strokes. Life is like that.
Golf, like life, can have moments of high drama as well as moments of great hilarity, not to mention humiliation.
Golf has rules to pay by as life has rules to live by, and woe unto those who don’t know the rules. In golf as in life, ignorance of the law is no defense against a bad score.
Golf has its share of people who bend the rules, or break them altogether. They jack up their ball in the rough, ground their club in a hazard, forget to count that stroke they thought no one saw, inflate their handicap to gain an edge in the skins game, or a trophy. The latter is known as a sandbagger. It’s a term used to describe those of that ilk. Life has its share of liars, cheats and thieves as well, which accounts for the number of prisons we have in this country. Not to mention some in Congress.
There are slobs and jerks on the golf course just as there are in everyday life.
Golf is not fair. Neither is life.
And remember above all golf is just a game, not life. So the next time you hear some pompous orator pontificating or motivating using football or baseball analogies, tell him to sit down and shut up…he’s using the wrong ones.
This is a piece I wrote back in 2017. The news of Kermit Bye’s passing made me think of it again. It might be a bit long, but Kermit and I had a good time at the Natiional Democrat Convention in New York City that year. The last time I talked with Kermit was to tell him where he could find what I had written about the story we created that summer of 1976. When I talked to him there was already evidence of Alzheimer’s, and I never did get to hear from him if he had a chance to see it. I repost it for his family.
Gather around children, it’s time to open Uncle Bob’s Story Time Vault.
For you adults, you might want to pour a glass of wine, and sit back to take in this story. I started out shorter than it ended up, but that often happens with stories. This one is true, and no names have been changed. So if you have the patience, I hope you will not be bored.
Sit back now, and let me take you back to the year of 1976. It was the summer to be precise, and the place was New York City. That’s right kids, the Big Apple, and it was the year of our country’s Bicentennial Celebration.
It was also the year that the Democrat Party had their national convention in New York, and that was the reason I was there.
You see, ole Uncle Bob was a reporter back then, and he specialized…
I went to Washington, D.C. in 1981 for the Inauguration of Ronald Reagan as the 40th U.S. President of the United State.
It was a different time then it is now.
Then Washington was full of people, there were parties everywhere, hotel rooms were at a premium, and though there was security, it was nothing like I will see on the television Wednesday that will mark the swearing in of Joe Biden as 46th President of the United States.
There wasn’t over 25,000 National Guard Troops, Secret Service Agents, D.C. Police surrounding the Capitol grounds, the National Mall is closed as are other monuments visitors come to D.C. to visit. Washington had been turned into an armed camp.
If that weren’t enough there was the specter of the Covid-19 Pandemic casting a pall over the process this year.
In 1981 social distancing was never heard of, not so this year which further complicated planning for this most important event of our democracy.
Streets closed, concrete barriers everywhere, fences with razor wire all around the Capitol grounds, in a city that I roamed around freely when I was working as a journalist, or visiting on vacation.
I’m saddened by what I see today because it is so different than those January days in 1981 when newly elected North Dakota Governor Al Olson and his wife Barbara, along with a delegation made up of campaign workers, and friends like the late John Smith, who was Al’s chief of staff, and John’s wife Pat, Marlys and Bob Fleck, Allen Young, State Party Chairman, as well as me and others came to D.C. for this ritual that once again shows how this country makes a peaceful passage of power. This one from Jimmy Carter to Reagan.
I can remember the night before the big day walking around downtown Washington stopping in a crowded hotel bar and having a drink and looking around and fear was nowhere to be found.
We walked out of the bar about the time they were setting off fireworks over the National Mall, and it was a cool, January evening, but there was no wind, and from where we stood on a curb on a street, we could see the sky light up with fireworks for about half and hour. As I stood there and watched the pyrotechnics light the night sky I had a good feeling, a feeling that told me we were in a good place.
We didn’t run into soldiers, policemen at every corner, and were able to walk about without incident back to our hotel and find others from our group.
You won’t be able do that for the Biden and Harris inauguration without going through checkpoints after checkpoints with armed soldiers everywhere.
It makes me sad, and it was Trump that brought on the sadness.
The day of the inauguration dawned cool but not cold, there were checkpoints to control access to the area where we would be able to witness the swearing in of Reagan at an area on the West wall of the Capitol. I would be stretching it to say that we had a real good view, but I did have a camera with a long lens that people could take look at the staging where the event was taking place.
(This picture of the Capitol was not taken during Reagan’s Inauguration. That’s why you don’t see the bunting and flags that would ordinarily be there)
We kind of joked we couldn’t have gotten much further away, but we were all glad we were. Then I notice about 50 feet to my left, there was Wayne Newton, and I thought he didn’t get any better treatment then we did.
After that one visit to Washington for an Inaugural I wouldn’t bother to go to another one. Too many people, to expensive, and I’d been to one now. All that considered, I was glad I was there that day.
However, I have a different feeling about Biden and Harris, and might have liked to be there despite the inconvenience. just so I could get a glimpse of hope, that those in power who have the power to do the right thing will do the right thing. They always have that choice.
I’m sad as the event approaches mainly because of what recent events have done, or attempted to do to our democracy.
I’m sad that by the time you read this probably more than 400,000 Americans would have lost their lives to the Pandemic needlessly.
It makes me sad, and it was Trump that brought on the sadness.
Retired reporter. Author of "Where The Popsicles Are," a memoir of my late wife, Joanie's 12-year battle with cancer. A story of courage, love, and faith. I'm still held prisoner by a Siamese cat, Brandy who keeps me honest.