Relative Truth

I got an email the other day from Paul Z. in Connecticut. Paul has been one of my brother Phil’s best friends since they were kids, and he wrote to object to my recent characterization of my father as "a hard case."

"I know he was a bit stiff," Paul writes, "but he was always decent to me and the rest of your brothers’ friends, and he took my ribbing him pretty well. I don’t know that he was that dogmatic. I saw him in lots of situations where he was upset by various things his kids were going through, and he wasn’t always that hard a case and, indeed, was vulnerable.

"I know he took interest in all of his sons and worried about them and also tried to take positive action to help them succeed in life. He was as straight as an arrow, but he liked and appreciated golf, music and reading annual reports. He was also generous, and he and your mother often offered to include me in your family’s events."

Paul said my dad wasn’t "that hard to get through to," and that I should "try to see him through other people’s eyes. Maybe that way you will realize you both would have enjoyed each other’s company more and more if his life hadn’t been cut off so short. That thought doesn’t have to be something to lament, but rather to take pleasure in what would inevitably have happened. "

Read more

Stems and Seeds

I drove recently to the middle-Georgia town of McDonough (local pronunciation: mick DON a) to visit with Amy Lovelace, who spends at least an hour a day, every day, hitting golf balls. She also plays 18 holes once a week and nine holes on another outing.

Amy is 46, married (her second) and has two dogs and three cats. She is slender and tan, has green eyes  and long, honey-colored hair pulled back beneath a black Titleist baseball cap. The muscularity in her arms and shoulders attests to the 25 years she’s spent in the gym.

Amy’s been a clerk at ABF Freight Systems for 23 years and drives a 5-series BMW, but it’s golf that defines her life.

"It’s the only thing I do really well," she says. "My husband says I’m obsessed."

Read more

A Family Functions

On a desperately hot afternoon, when smart beach-goers had forsaken the charms of sun, sand and sea for air conditioning and frosty beverages, a pair of dolphins appeared a quarter-mile off the shore of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The larger dolphin surfaced and disappeared several times, it’s black dorsal fin and back sliding gracefully through the water. But the smaller dolphin erupted from the surface like a Polaris missile and crashed back into the water with an enormous splash. Moments later, he exploded into the air 20 yards away, spun to expose his shiny underside to the sun and slammed happily into the ocean on his back.

Five times in a matter of minutes he did this, like a toddler stamping happily in a puddle. That I say "he" is supposition, of course, supported primarily by my own circumstances.

I was at the beach with my brothers and their families, which includes four nephews and two nieces. My nephews, ages 10 to 16, fought rubber-band-gun wars, played Game Boy, romped in the waves, built sand structures and threw water balloons from the top floor deck at family and strangers alike.

Read more