Following five years of schizoaffective disorder episodes, I had trouble communicating with my Dad.
I had forgotten all the good things he had done for me and I had blamed him for things that weren’t his fault. I wanted to posit responsibility for having a mental illness on something, or someone, not knowing exactly what it was. I was disoriented and in an adverse state of mind and I directed this confusion towards him. It wasn’t fair, and it was a completely inaccurate assessment, but it was the way things were.
Fortunately, we still had a lot of common interests including the game of golf. Growing up we had always gone golfing together and he had showed me every nuance of the game. It’s always been his favorite sport. It’s been a way of life and through it he’s taught me a great deal about life.
During this rocky period, while I was living at home after my episodes, we talked very infrequently. Even while watching sports there was very little conversation and I spent a great deal of time alone. I struggled to reintegrate into society because I had been in isolation for the past five years and I had a lot of issues re-learning socialization. My Dad made certain to bring me to the golf course with he and his friends every weekend so we could spend quality time together and also so I had people to hang out with. His friends were all his age but they all treated me like a son and they helped to momentarily clear the clouds that weathered my life day in and day out for 4 hours playing eighteen holes.
During the beginning of this process we were playing Portsmouth Country Club, which was our favorite course. It was late day and a bright yellowy orange sun sat back behind number 16 which was a par 3. I struck a pitching wedge about 140 yards, dropping it several feet in front of the hole. Rolling forward inch by inch the ball approached the hole, narrowly missing an ace and proceeding to stop about ten feet above the hole.
My dad on the other hand, had seen the shot. He saw the way the ball had traveled and he knew what to hit. His shot sailed high and far and dropped down at nearly the same spot mine did. Rolling forward the ball seemed to have disappeared but we couldn’t tell because the sun was blinding.
With high hopes, we hopped into the cart and approached the hole. I ran to the cup, looked down, and realized my Dad had just made his first ever hole in one at age 54. I hugged him close and there were tears in both our eyes. It was a powerful moment. I couldn’t have been happier that I was there to see his first ever ace and I know he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
This moment showed me how much he cared about me and it also reminded me how much I cared for himself.
However, the hole wasn’t over. During this 18-hole match between father and son, son having taken many a beatings in the past in golf, there were strokes to be given. At the time I was an eighteen handicap and my Dad was a four so I was stroking on that hole. Not knowing this I stepped up to my ball and took my read on the putt. If I hit the putt correctly, the ball would break several inches and coast downhill hitting the cup right center. Stepping over the ball with the hangover of high emotions from the hole-in-one, I didn’t care if it dropped or didn’t drop. The day was over in my mind and there was nothing that could make it any better. No pressure, no reason to worry that I might leave this birdie putt halfway, or top the ball, or just completely shank the putt. I stepped up, and struck the putt well, drilling it center cup. I halved the hole on my Dad’s first ever hole-in-one. After realizing he didn’t win the hole with an ace we laughed harder than ever.
“You halved the hole, you mutt,” my father said to me.
I replied telling him that even a hole-in-one isn’t good enough to out-do the new and improved Steve Colori.
After the hangover of emotions we went to the next tee to finish up with 17 and 18. Unbeknownst to my father, he teed off with the hole-in-one ball. Luckily, we found the ball. This sparked another good laugh and after 18 we turned into the clubhouse for a beer. I also made certain to tell everyone the story of my father’s hole-in-one, how his son couldn’t be beat, how important it was to be there for such an awesome moment, how I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Sometimes it’s not necessarily important to sort through all the tough times, figure out who’s to blame, what’s to fix, or who should’ve done better. We never got into who was right, or who was wrong, or what needed to change and what didn’t. That would have been an extremely difficult conversation to have.
Instead we just kept golfing, continued making new memories thus washing away several rocky years by moving along a current that eventually lead to a better shore. That current was powered by things like golfing together, going to games, and simply spending time together enjoying common interests. Some messages aren’t spoken with words.
I eventually realized my Dad loves me and I wrongfully blamed him for having had schizoaffective disorder.
To this day I’m uncertain of the cause of the illness and I don’t know if I’ll ever figure that out; some of its biological and some experiential. However, I did figure out that we needed to mend the relationship that had been harried by my illness.
We’re now closer than ever and we continue to play a lot of golf, watch sports, and remind one another of the hole-in-one that didn’t win the hole.
Photo Credit: justinknol/Flickr