I am often reminded that time really is like sand through an hourglass but especially now as I am reflecting on my father’s first cancer treatment. I was 23 years old. I was doing exactly what I should be doing, in a perfect world, I was in college at Winthrop College and having the time of my life and figuring out how one day I would be the ruler of the free world. OK maybe not the ruler of the free world but I did have dreams and the ambition to make them a reality. One day, while hanging out with my friends I received a phone call. This one call would unleash the existence of a demon I could never have planned for nor could escape from as it lurked in the shadows of my family and decided my Father would be its first victim. It was my older brother Richard on the other line, yes line because there were no cell phones back in 1973. I remember his voice being different than the other calls he made to me, checking on me at school. There was a tone that he only used when he was serious, and he was. He explained that I needed to come home to Chester, SC because dad was being prepared for surgery, a mastectomy.
18 miles! Winthrop College was only 18 miles from Chester. As short of a trip as this may sound it was the longest 18 miles I have ever driven. Just as I am often reminded of how fast time goes by this drive was a reminder that sometimes time stands still. My mind drifted to times past when my brothers and I enjoyed a carefree life as young children and enjoyed spending time with my dad on the Chester golf course in the late 50’s & 60’s. My dad was a professional golfer and a teaching pro. So, the golf course was a playground made in heaven for us three siblings, and these memories occupied me on the drive home. The golf course is not like we know it today, where fancy houses are built all around it and are then called country clubs. No, it was wide open, and we had the freedom to roam, play and let our imaginations run wild. And we did, countless times!
I remember riding with my dad on a tractor checking out the different fairways. Just me and my dad! Oh, how I cherish these little moments of him and I. I thought it was fun especially being with my dad on the tractor. I mean not every girl got to ride on the golf course tractor! It was one of those quiet moments that last forever and can only be shared between a Daddy and his little girl. Things always got a little more adventurous when we added one of my brothers to the mix of the day. One day Richard and I decided to experiment with being arson’s and we set the dried grass on fire behind the tee box on the #5 hole. We were very young, but we wanted to roast a MoonPie. Have you ever had a roasted MoonPie? If you have well, then you understand why we thought it was a brilliant idea! Where creativity was our strength, this was a blatant example of where we could make some pretty bad decisions. Not the brightest decision we made that day. I saw my father on his tractor in the distance coming to our rescue to extinguish the fire. Yep, that’s my dad, always my hero. I guess he figured setting the golf course on fire and seeing the damage it caused was enough punishment for us because I don’t remember him saying too much about it. Of course, Richard may have remembered it differently as there were some perks to being the only girl!
I was coming up on the exit to the hospital. I remember being overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness. As the tears rolled down my face with no end in sight, I struggled with figuring out what I could say to the strongest man I knew. What could I say to give him comfort and reassurance and hope? How could I convince him that it was no big deal that he might never play golf again, the life-long passion he acquired as a young caddy at Maidstone Club in East Hampton NY. How could I convince him that his life is more precious than anything he may lose to save it, even golf. The anticipation of my arrival to face him was exhausting and I only and a few moments left to decide my plan of action. I stood in front of his hospital room door, wiped my tears, took a deep breath, and walked in. I was immediately greeted with his bright hazel eyes and a smile that told me he was concerned. I scooted the chair next to his bed, sat down and held his hand. At that very moment, I had no words, holding his hand said enough for both of us for the time being. We both knew there was the risk to him losing muscle that would prevent him from playing golf. We both knew his life would forever be changed.
When my father returned from surgery, we were elated to find out that the oncologist was able to spare the mussels needed to play golf. I felt such joy in my heart. It was difficult enough to comprehend my dad having breast cancer and losing a breast, but it would have been equally as challenging to watch my father to lose the one thing he loved to spend his life doing, playing golf. The look on my father’s face after receiving the news he could play golf was one of restored hope that he would be able to continue to fight like a champ against this demon called cancer.