There are many reasons why we might feel a little sad, down in the dumps, melancholy, troubled, depressed, uninspired, disconcerted, distraught, flustered, miffed, ruffled, tormented or discombobulated and we may have the right to do so. However, there is that desire to find peace in ourselves that lingers always.
When ever I am feeling bitter and confused by the lack of spark in my step, I am reminded about the many exceptional stories I have been told about life, love, family and of traveling the world. One such chronicle of life events was shared by a very dear and wise old man I had the pleasure to play golf with regularly. Mr. Bergman was always angry, bitter, gruff and literally brimming with piss and vinegar, his scowl was delightful.
He represented a classic example of “I have endured it all” and not being too happy about that situation either, for he had survived two of his children, more than a few wives, the depression, two world wars and countless life traumas which was made apparent by his favorite response to “How are you today.” “BREATHIN'” in a loud, gruff voice was always his reply.
He would shuffle down from the club house wearing golf attire from the 40’s or 50’s, not interested in finding a game or having to tolerate any company for that matter. He did allow me to play along though for he appreciated that I always let him talk about anything and everything with keen interest. I learned to understand that his ceaseless anger kept things that bothered him clean and in their place. It appeared that he didn’t allow his animosity or his woes about old age bother him as he preserved his peace by compartmentalizing his angst.
“Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
Once we set foot on that first tee, everything changed, he laughed at life and the world, we strolled down the fairway as he happily bumped his ball along at fifty yard increments to reach the position of my one drive. He would tease and cajole with comments about my not needing to get my ball to the green and in the hole with any expeditiousness, it was all about the journey and not the destination he recited often.
He was a true golfer, he had been playing for 60 plus years and always in his pocket were medals awarded him from playing in the U.S. Amateur as a contestant on several occasions. He was the picture of old money, inherited from his father’s, father’s, father I presumed and he had never worked a real job. He had seen more of the world than watching ten years of travel logs could have provided the armchair traveler.
He was a true gentleman, a scholar, and an amazing resource of life lessons and stories about overcoming hard times by simply ignoring them it appeared. In his late eighties now, a game of golf included only a few holes and that could consume the best part of a few hours, the experience always left me feeling more alive and appreciative for all I had been blessed with.
I was a mess in those days, in the midst of a divorce, a recent career change, I was lost in my self and I was alone. My savior was the Country Club where I worked as a shop assistant tending to the needs of an aging golf membership, setting up games, fixing golf carts, selling equipment and attire, and coordinating tournaments. Though I was burdened with troubles, life was simple here, I was appreciated, I always had fun, not to mention I played golf three or four days a week on a pristine tract in the middle of my home town.
Life was good I reminded myself daily, I was living in a converted garage for $250 a month just off the 16th fairway, I didn’t need a car as I played 16, 17 and 18 to work in the mornings alone. At the end of my day I played as many holes as I could fit in before dark, and I had a manicured 60+ acres as a backyard with many trees and a lagoon. I had no debt and if I played my cards right, I received two delicious free meals per day for simply being helpful and friendly. I had achieved a low, single digit handicap, I played with the membership twice a week as part of my job, I was in great shape and loving life as it were at $7 an hour.
What I learned from playing with the well seasoned codgers was that life was not to be bothered with or arm wrestled, it was all about living and enjoying each new day. Preferably with a group of old friends walking on fresh-cut grass listening to the swearing and tales of better golf swings. I had learned to listen, I embraced the chance to forget about my troubles and simply laugh at the desire for a low score.
I apologized to friends for being cranky or quiet and I learned to put a smile on my face for no good reason at all and ignore the problems of life until I could work through them with glee. What I had discovered was that we all need to just breathe and repeat to ourselves often – “whatever”…
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss