My friend is a tall stately gal - six foot to be exact.
Her love is the game of golf and she teaches me all the
facets of it. Soon, I too, begin to love the game,
the camaraderie with my friend and with our fellow
golfers. She swings a golf club like a soft feather,
blowing in the wind - her body so straight, upright and
graceful. The ball goes flying down the middle of
the fairway, rolls end over end until it stops - and I
say "nice drive". She just looks at me and smiles.
She doesn't say "yes, it was a good hit" – she just
takes the compliment inside and nods. She then
proceeds down the fairway after the little white ball -
walking as if she were in a dance - graceful and in time
with all of nature. She stops to say "hello" to a
bird that is eating his worm for breakfast. (It's
spring and the robins are back in town.)
My friend gets to her ball, looks at it and looks where
she has to hit the next shot. She gets it figured
out mentally before anything happens physically.
She then takes a club she feels will make the green, and
again she swings with such grace and fluidity.
Watching her is almost like watching a slow-motion
picture. The ball takes off again and glides high
this time, with fewer rolls on it when it hits the
green. It just stops short, not too far from the
pin. Again she takes off in that beautiful stride of
hers, one foot in front of the other. She looks so
determined, but doesn't forget where she is or what is
happening around her. The wind is blowing slightly
and she has taken that into consideration for the shot.
She is aware of all nature around her. She passes a
squirrel and chuckles to it, and I hear the animal
almost answer her, in its own language. She seems
to have a way to "talk" to the animals and all of nature
around her. We get to her ball on the green and she
proceeds to put it into the hole for a birdie. I say
"nice birdie". She just looks at me and says
The game goes on like this for the rest of spring.
There are competitive games with others all over Long
Island, New York, and New Jersey. The summer comes
and we play more golf, because we can't seem to get
enough of the game. It has become an obsession with me -
a love affair. I begin to understand what is
behind her eyes when I say "nice shot" to her. She
has been in a love affair with this game much longer
than I. I am more verbal about my shots and
swings. She is more relaxed and just glides
through the motions. And yet, I can see she is ONE with
the whole of what she is doing. She is ONE with
The wind starts to get cooler and there is championship
after championship to be played. It is nearing the
end of the season for golf. The love affair is
slowly ending, and my friend seems to sense it.
And I know what is happening, too. I don't look
forward to the winter months of being inside and not out
in the world of nature. She starts to get a bit
more anxious with her shots. Her game is not as
fine-tuned as it was in the summer months. She
walks a little faster down the fairways. (I walk
faster, too, because I am cold!) We have hats on
now, sometimes gloves, and layers of clothing, to keep
us warm. And yet, we keep on playing at this love
affair of ours.
The years pass and I begin to become a better golfer.
I am younger than my friend, but that doesn't matter,
because she has more stamina. She has taught me so
much about the game, and I have watched her every move
to learn everything I could. I wanted to be a 3
handicap like her. I am only a 10 handicap after
her many years of teaching - but then I don't have the
same thing she has. I don't glide down the fairway
in slow motion like she does. I almost run to get to my
ball in order to hit it again. I am too anxious.
She has the love of the game - the soft caress of the
club, that makes her one with it and, in turn, one with
the ball. It is like watching love in motion.
I am too nervous, and agitated with my bad shots.
She handles them in stride, and just keeps going
forward. What a beautiful thing to watch this love
affair she has with the game of golf.
We both decide to move to Florida, so we can play golf
year round and each day till sunset. We enjoy our
years in Florida, playing on different leagues with lots
of great people; and meeting new friends, who enjoy the
game as much as my friend and I. We play in the
hot summer months and love it even more, because there
are so few players on the golf course - and you can hit
two and three balls. Friends come down from up
north to visit us in the winter months. (We have
the cheapest place in town to stay) It seems that
we are living only to play golf - which really isn't so
bad, we both say. She loves it so, and I love the
competition with the other players.
Then one day - she doesn't remember where she hit the
ball. I don't think anything of it, because it is only
slightly off the fairway, although she usually is always
in the middle. We walk to her ball and I show her
where it is. A few months go by and I find I am
beating her at the game, where before she always beat
me. Her swing is the same, although maybe a little
shorter backswing. But she is still out driving me
and still is as graceful. Lately, though, she seems to
be having problems with keeping a score card, but says
it is because her eyes are not as good any more - so I
leave it at that.
Then one night at the dinner table, we are talking about
the day's game, who we played with and telling each
other shot for shot what had happened. All of a
sudden she begins to stare into space, with a shaking of
her head – like a tremor. I try to get her
attention, but I am having trouble. I get right in
front of her, touch her shoulder and ask "are you all
right?" She snaps out of it and then says "yes,
why?" I am frightened, because I know something
has happened with my friend. She seems okay now,
though, so we finish eating. (In the back of my
mind, I don't like what I saw.)
Later we decide she should be checked out; and after
many months of poking with needles, with scans of the
brain and other areas of her body, the doctors say it is
a Dementia-Alzheimer's type disease. She is devastated
and says I must put her in a nursing home. I say
"NO", that we will go through this together - it will be
Years pass and we still play golf, but not as often.
It is hard to watch her declining so. The doctors
had said the progress of the disease could take three to
twenty years. I, of course, heard only the twenty
years. It is much shorter than that, for it's only
been three years. (I now beat her at the game we
love so much - wishing that I couldn't.)
shower her and dress her - and she fights me every step
of the way. My health is declining, because she is
up twenty-four hours a day, pacing and speaking a
language I do not understand. She has lost all of
her vocabulary, and is getting into everything in the
apartment. I am so afraid she is going to get
hurt. It is like watching my children all over
again, when they were two years old.
Soon the time
comes when I can't handle her anymore because of her
six-foot tall body and her strength. Now I have
found that I have a heart condition; and the doctor
tells me I must put her in a nursing home. The
thought tears my heart out. I feel I am living in
a time zone of depression and despair for the both of us
- and I am sure she is feeling the same way.
She doesn't walk any more. She
is in a wheel chair now, due to a hip break, and then
forgetting how to walk. Her body is bent and stiff
as a steel rod, because of the illness. She no
longer moves with that beautiful fluidity. Her movements
are rigid, like a robot. She no longer remembers her
love affair with golf. She turns her head toward
the television when golf is on, stares at it for a
moment, but then is off to some other place in her mind.
She doesn't speak anymore, not even to say "thanks" to
my "that was a good golf shot". She makes noises
that no one seems to understand - except the other
residents on her floor of the nursing home, who also
have this terrible illness. They seem to have a
language all their own - almost like the birds and
squirrels. But she is no longer one with nature.
When I take her outside to see the ducks at the nursing
home pond, she just yells and her face and eyes are full
of fear. So we now stay inside.
Each winter she usually gets
pneumonia, because her swallow muscle is no longer
working. She has lost all of the muscles in her
body; and because of that, is in diapers now. She
is not determined to do anything anymore. She just sits
in a wheel chair or lies in bed. When she sleeps,
she makes noises and faces; and her body twitches, as if
in a bad dream. (Oh, how I wish this was a really
bad dream, and we both could wake up and once again play
the game we loved so much.) She stares at me sometimes
without blinking her eyes; and I try so hard to see what
is behind those eyes now. What I think I hear is:
“I am a prisoner in this body and I long to once again
go and play the game of golf that I love".
And I feel it was only yesterday that
we both were playing the game we loved.
to our weekly e-newsletter