Family and/or Autobiography

Fathers’ Day Find

My new hobby.
My new hobby.

When Fathers’ Day rolls around, I always feel a little left out. I don’t feel this way because I don’t embrace my fatherly responsibilities, because I do. The reason is because I can’t relate to any of the gifts that stores say are “Perfect for Dad!”

I don’t like football or watch a lot of TV, I don’t drink beer or want to learn how to brew it. I don’t wield barbecue tongs. I don’t camp. I don’t want to read thick tomes about Eisenhower. I have no desire to bench press anything. And I avoid neckties at all costs.

See what I mean? I am a dad, but I don’t do anything stereotypically dad-ish.

Until now.

I play golf!

Well, not really. What I mean by “golf” is that on my lunch hour, I stroll on a nearby course in search of lost or abandoned golf balls. It’s kind of like fishing in a stocked lake; as soon as I’ve plucked the course clean and head back to my office with my pockets full, new foursomes of lousy golfers tee up, thereby seeding the field for tomorrow’s search.

I recommend this hobby to anyone. You get good exercise and fresh air, you don’t have to drag a big ol’ bag around with you, and the quality of your walk is not at all dependent on how well you tap a little ball into a little hole. Also, there are hardly any rules to follow; I have only two:

1. Cracked or broken golf balls are not collected, for they are garbage.

2. Balls still “in play” are off limits, for I have no desire to spoil anyone’s game.

This activity also relaxes my body and mind. And when your body and mind are relaxed, some marvelously creative ideas can come to you. So I reserve a small space in my pocket for a notepad and a pen. You just never know when inspiration will strike.

But even without the mind and health benefits, I’d probably still collect golf balls. I’m not sure why, exactly, but if I were to guess, I’d attribute my newfound fanaticism to a childhood trauma:

Every year, my two cousins and I would take part in The Family Easter Egg Hunt, which was held in the cramped quarters of my grandmother’s living room. Cousin Celeste, who was only slightly older than me but alarmingly muscular for a girl, was very competitive on all matters large and small. (“I have never lost a game of Scabble!” she often boasted when we were kids. This was true, but the reason she never “lost” a game of Scabble was because whenever her competitor managed to wangle a seven-letter word, she would fling the game board Frisbee-like down the hallway.) Celeste saw Easter egg hunting as a full contact sport. Before my Great Uncle Bill would even finish saying, “On your mark!” Celeste would hip check me into Grandma’s coffee table.

My other competitor was my cousin Jason, who was younger, smaller, and fleet of foot. He could outrun anyone and had spent the bulk of his young existence learning how to dodge Celeste’s attacks.

To add insult to Celeste-inflicted injury, I was also a pretty crummy egg finder. This is a genetic flaw that my son has inherited. Fortunately, Alex has not had to suffer for it. Today’s kids live in a gentler age; The Family Easter Egg Hunt, now held in Auntie Susie’s finished basement, is no longer the free-for-all gladiator sport of the past. Now there are four jillion eggs to find — plenty for everyone! Every participant ends up happy and far, far richer for the experience. (Literally! Auntie Susie sticks dollar bills in some of those eggs!)

Back in the 1970s, however, the eggs numbered maybe a dozen and I was lucky if I could get three. Ever year I reaquatinted myself with the agony of defeat. I must have carried this agony into adulthood.

As I now patrol the golf course for stray balls, I have evolved into a sharp-eyed finder. Not only do I effortlessly scoop up the balls that had disappeared into the tall grass, but also the ones ground into the dirt by cheaters who didn’t like the look of their lie.

I have uncovered evidence of a lot of cheating, actually. Knowing that so many adults cheat at a game kind of disgusts me, but I’m also kind of glad the course is home to so many cheaters. Do you know how hard it is to find a half-buried golf ball? Those cheaters have turned me into a Finding Master.

All this leads me back to what I want for Fathers’ Day. It’s not a gift that one would find on a store’s “Perfect For Dad!” table, but it’s a gift that’s certainly perfect for me. I want another egg hunt with Celeste and Jason.

I have trained. I have become formidable. I have the eyes of a hawk. I have the Fire in the Belly. I no longer wear orthopedic shoes.

Better yet, I now have a desk drawer full of small, hard, and wonderfully hurl-able projectiles.

Game on, suckers.