While I may have been the most dreadful hacker in the 144-person field at the 17th annual Colgate Alumni Golf Tournament last July, it was not for a lack of helpful tips from my father, who would wait, before dispensing them, until a millisecond before I began my backswing.
"You're hooding the club face."
"Stop! Look at your feet!"
Aside from fantasizing about seizing the Ginty from his bag and using it to commit parricide; aside from spending the weekend concealing my politics from my dad's gin-blossomed, tartan-blazered classmates; other than being treated by my wife, Laura, upon my return, like a man who had blown two weeks wages on a drinking and gambling binge, I could not have had a better time.
Laura, herself a Colgate alum (class of '85), grudgingly green-lighted the three-day outing after I reminded her that since we moved to the West Coast seven years ago, I had seen too little of my East Coast-dwelling parents, who are not getting any younger. That became starkly apparent on the second morning of the tournament when I entered one of the communal bathrooms in Curtis Hall, where the university was billeting us. Standing at the sink and sporting nothing but the shaving cream on his face was my old man. I'm not saying Rex isn't in pretty good shape for a guy with a fake hip and a fake knee whose main source of exercise is gardening. I'm just saying that the sight of one's nude 68-year-old father is something that, if possible, one should brace for.
We, the alumni of Colgate, go through life smiling politely at twits who make toothpaste jokes about our alma mater, a liberal arts school nestled in the Chenango valley of central New York. Rex graduated in '51, having played varsity football and sung in the Thirteen, the university's superb glee club. He joined the Marines and fought in the Korean War, after which he earned his M.B.A. from the Wharton School at Penn and embarked on a successful career in the steel industry. Although he was brilliant as a salesman, he has been slow to grasp the nuances of retirement. To wit: Because he no longer has a half-dozen sales calls to make on any day, he no longer has to drive like a methamphetamine addict with a full bladder. Yet he does.
I graduated, sans honors or varsity letters, in '83 and became a sportswriter. My ability to hold down this job has partly alleviated the disappointment my father felt, and pointedly expressed to me, when I quit football after my sophomore season.
In the months before the tournament, I signed up for golf lessons and bought new clubs in the ardent hope that I would play well. To that end, two days before the tournament I also accompanied Rex to Point Judith ( R.I.) Country Club, of which he is a member. That we could not proceed immediately to the driving range—our visit coincided with the annual Ladies Invitational-rankled Rex. We retreated to the men's grill, which does not have a NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign on the entrance, only because that proscription is understood.
As we skimmed the morning news, the chatter and laughter of the women exiled to the porch caused Rex to look up from his paper and snap, "They sound like a bunch of parrots!" He looked up a moment later and said with resignation, "Before long they'll be in here, you know."