Tag Archives: nostalgia

Mom’s Photo Albums

In addition to my dad’s sermons that I brought home from my sister’s house last year, another item was a box of my mom’s old photo albums. My first task was to organize all of my dad’s sermons and once I completed that, I began to go through the old albums with the intent of scanning them to create digital copies. There was a box of loose photos and five separate photo albums. The loose photos and albums scanned the period from the early 1960s to 1996, an almost 40 year period ending just three years before my mom died. It turned out to be a trip down memory lane going through them all with some wonderful discoveries along the way; images that I never knew had even been captured on film.

This is a school photo I found of myself from when I was in the 5th grade. I didn’t even recall seeing it before so it was a special find.

And here is one of our whole family taken at my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was amusing to see how young all of us looked in the early 1960s.

The album from 1970 was so old that I was afraid I would destroy the photos trying to get individual photos out to scan. So I just scanned the entire pages.

This first page captured a visit of my aunt, uncle, and cousin when they came to see us soon after we moved to Memphis. It was a bitter sweet memory when I viewed this page as almost as soon as they returned home after this trip, my cousin became gravely ill with hepatitis and spent many weeks in the hospital before thankfully making a full recovery but then almost within days of returning home, my aunt died of a brain hemorrhage. To further sadden this memory, my cousin, who was just a year younger than me died of a sudden heart attack before he even reached the age of 50.

The picture on the bottom right is actually the one happy memory as it is of me in my bedroom where I spent many an hour building car models just as I was captured doing in this photo. But certainly tempered by the sad events that unfolded soon after that visit.

Also included in that album was a photo of my uncle sitting on my motorcycle at his home in Texas. I sold it to my cousin after we moved to Memphis as I never licensed it in Tennessee because of concerns about me driving it in Memphis, a much busier traffic city than the one from which we had moved which had a population of less than 10,000.

This is the only other photo I thought existed of my old motorcycle.

This is an even older image…

…one of my brother and I when we bought a mini bike that preceded the motorcycle. With our paper route earnings, we together purchased it when we lived in that small town and would ride it up and down our semi-rural street.

Here is a photo of my brother and I with our dad when we were learning to play golf together. This was one of the “father-son” activities my dad suggested we take up once we had moved to the “big” city with public golf courses available. This was obviously taken after that first outing when we learned that each player was supposed to have his own bag and set of clubs (the first time we golfed, all three of us played out of the bag pictured next to my dad).

And this picture is special of my sister with her first car, significant probably much more to me than my sister as she let me learn how to drive a stick shift in her new car.

My dad was a huge fisherman probably going fishing almost every week of his adulthood. Here he is with the largest fish he ever caught, a dolphin landed on a deep-sea fishing excursion we took one summer on vacation in Destin, FL.

The next photo album jumped forward to 1980 the year my parents left Memphis and moved to a small community church in northwestern Louisiana.

We made many trips there prior to my dad retiring in 1989.

It was a relaxing, probably idyllic pre-retirement setting for my parents.

But when I opened the 1996 album and perused the photos, I was shocked at how much my mom had aged in the few short years since the end of the last album.

Some of the photos were even taken of her in the hospital as she had been in and out seeking treatment for numerous medical issues that arose as she neared the end of her life. Some of the photos brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t bear to scan them, as I didn’t want to remember her that way.

As I closed the cover of that last album, tears running down my cheeks, I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of loss over my parents. On a daily basis, I probably don’t think about my parents what with me still working full time, having granddaddy duties, and maintaining a loving relationship with my wife of over 35 years. But it seemed that last album brought the death of my parents crashing down around me, a loss felt anew with fresh tears as I typed these words.

So I decided this was the memory I would try to etch in my mind of my parents, from December 1989, the year my dad retired and long before the medical conditions took their ravish toll on both my parents.

I miss you Mom and Dad. I love you and will always remember you dearly.

Kids Photos on My Office Desk

Some additional items that I will need to take home before I retire are the photos that have graced my office desk for all these years. I started working at this location over 30+ years ago, before my daughter and youngest son were even born and when our oldest son was just one year old. So you could say, my kids have literally grown up with me while I worked here.

The earliest photos I brought to display on my desk were the ones that were taken when they were in school (or pre-school), the ones taken by a professional photographer in September at the beginning of each academic year. Each fall, they would get a new picture made and I would bring them all to work to replace the previous year’s photo. I have used these same frames all that time so the frames themselves are almost as old as my kids.

During the year, it was a gradual growing up process that my wife and I witnessed. But when I replaced the photo from the year before with the newest one, there was typically a stark difference in their appearance. My daughter was actually born five days after I started working here so every year she celebrated her birthday; I too celebrated a work anniversary.

Each time I added a new photo, I put it in front of the previous photo so that the frames include all ten or so photos of each child. Their last photo was of a high school graduation, a college graduation, or a graduate school graduation photo (not necessarily a reflection of their highest achieved degree but rather just the last time the event was captured by a professional photographer).

I often thought these would make a nice collage, all 5 X7 prints in a single matted frame but since I have previously scanned all these photos, I could also make a digital collage.

It is bitter sweet to look back over the photos and see how each child has grown over the years.

Photos have always been some of my most prized possessions as they bridge us back to another time, a time we may not be able to recall so easily within our mind. But it is also with the knowledge that these photos provide only a visual image of each child at that stage of their life. To know their personality, to know the fine adult that they have grown into and to know the person whom they really are, you would have to have witnessed their growing up all these years.

Sadly working full time all those years, I missed a lot of this growing up and so these photos, no matter how precious they are cannot make up for that. But once I retire, I will be able to spend more time with each one of them, the families they have started (and the grandkids!), to reflect on the memories of them growing up, to get to know them more, and to share in the sheer joy of just being there with them.

Old Files

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Even though my retirement is still months away, I have already begun to clean out some old files as the archiving staff will be leaving before my last day. I have been the head of Stability for over 25 years so some of my files go back that far. On the first day of our site-wide clean up, I began to go through some of these quarter century old files.

It was really interesting looking back at some of the reports I approved in 1991. Even more interesting was seeing the names of fellow workers from that period that I had not even thought of in probably almost that long. Sadly, a few of them are not still alive so as I ran across their names, it was with a touch of sorrow.

But as I thumbed through documents from some of the other companies we worked with in the past, it was joyous to see names of people I know now that back then were just another name on a report. It is truly amazing how small the pharmaceutical industry really is.

That first day, I only managed to clean out one 5-drawer lateral file cabinet so I have a number of other files still to go through before I’m done. I fortunately didn’t come across any original documents that would have to go through the lengthy archival process. I did, however, generate a lot of recyclable waste. I can’t image how many trips I made to the recycle bin but I know I met my Fitbit 10,000-step goal that day (I even had to search for additional bins as along with fellow employees, we filled up all the ones close by.).

In advance of this clean-up day, I actually started going through some even older files that dated back to when I first started working.

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I ran across this photo of me that I think must have been taken for the company newspaper (remember those?).

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When I pulled out this file labeled “Programs”, I didn’t quite know what would be hidden inside. I was floored when I opened it.

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Inside was a Basic computer program I had written to crunch method validation data. My boss, when I first started, was very much into computerization (this was 1982) and challenged me as one of my first special projects to come up with a program to perform these method validation calculations.

When I was in college in the mid 1970s, I had studied Basic programming in a calculus lab course I had to take. Back then, the computer we had was a mainframe the size of two deep freezers end to end. We hand wrote out our program (there were no word-processors) and then typed each line of code onto a punch card (e.g., 100 cards for a 100 line program). Our task was to write a program to take multiple inputs of student’s individual test scores, generate a semester average for each student, assign a letter grade, and then rank order the students from highest to lowest average. I had had no exposure to computer programming in high school so this first semester freshman class proved to be a challenging assignment that I ultimately was not able to finish.

Imagine my chagrin when my boss assigned this project to me, a task far more challenging than my college assignment. Maybe it was the motivation of wanting to impress my boss (or the fact that I was being paid to do this rather than just earning a grade) but I remember taking home books on programming in Basic and hand writing my program at the kitchen table. Fortunately less than a decade after college, we were working on a “mini-computer” using a text processor that could take our lines of code and compile them into machine language—no more punch cards—so once my program was complete, I typed it into the text processor.

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Turns out writing it was a blast! I had to write several subroutines to perform the actual linear regression and to output the data in a table. I even figured out how to sort the data with a single pass through the calculated results, a functionality that had eluded me in college.

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In the same folder, I also found that I had started writing a computer program to manage our family budget. Only problem was this predated the invention of personal computers and so I had no computer of my own on which to run this program. But for a more “legitimate” business use, I did find that I had written a program to track our golf league participant’s scores and total them up to determine the season’s winners. It was almost like that student’s test score program I never was able to write correctly in college, only with golf scores rather than test scores.

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As I looked over these 34 year-old documents, I recalled the fun I had had writing these and the sense of pride that on my own, I had taught myself how to successfully program in Basic. It seemed that once I had slayed that old nemesis from college, I was bubbling with confidence to try even more.

I wonder on our next clean-up day what other treasures like these I may uncover that bring back such fond memories. I guess only time will tell.

Four Years Blogging

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Wow, four years!

When I started this blog post on February 9th, 2013, I never envisaged I would still be publishing these four years later and yet I have been coming to you every Sunday morning since then, 208 in a row now. I know a number of my loyal followers—and I thank you heartily—have been with me from the very beginning and have willing read each and every one of my muses, graciously overlooking my occasional bad grammar or poor sentence structure. But also along the way, I have picked up some additional followers who blog themselves and then there is the occasional reader that happens to find my topic of the week of interest to them.

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To all of you I say a great big THANK YOU. It is with this knowledge of your continued reading as well as your encouraging and thoughtful comments that motivates me to write these weekly posts. For me, it is exciting to awake each Sunday morning and think of the possibility of people all over the world reading my latest post when it publishes.

But in spite of all your encouragement, I must admit that there was a time last summer when I didn’t think I was going to make it to this four-year anniversary. When I looked down my list of topics still to write on, there just weren’t that many left. As my existing readers know, I primarily started this blog to tell my story to my kids, my family members and my friends before I lost these old memories. This was my “Black Book” project (click here for an explanation). I also write on travel, vacations, reading, projects, cars, grand parenting, and sometimes just random things (my Entropy category). Many of these topics I saw that I had already covered extensively.

So I really began to rack my brain to come up with additional topics.

But then an event occurred that opened up a whole new category of exploration—the announced closing of my work site and as a result, my pending retirement. This along with a number of other new ideas that came to mind, as well as the milestone of hitting 60 years of age last year, gave me additional topics to script.

Credit: Saveup.com

Credit: Saveup.com

And write I did! At one point last fall, I had 16 posts written and scheduled for future weekly publishing with about six more drafted. I felt the goal of continuing my blogging through a fourth year was well within reach.

Credit: runforecaster.com

Credit: runforecaster.com

And then additional events transpired that I wanted to blog about soon after the event occurred.

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Some of my previously scheduled posts followed a sequential order and so I began to have to shuffle multiple ones around to squeeze in new posts. Some posts could not be moved, as they were most relevant for a certain date (for example, Toys on Christmas Day). Before I knew it, after two or three shuffles, some of my existing posts got pushed out several months into 2017.

I guess from a bloggers perspective, this was a good problem to have. In fact the words you are reading now, I wrote over four months ago after I had written and scheduled almost all of my future posts through this February date.

By nature, I am an early starter; I never like rushing at the last minute to finish a project that is due. Even when I first began to blog, I typically liked to have my posts written and scheduled a couple of weeks in advance. That way, if something unexpected came up during the week that prevented me from finding the time to write, I still wouldn’t feel pressured to be trying to finish a post on Saturday night, just hours before its planned publishing.

The down side of this most recent strategy last year was that once I finished what I thought was a particularly good post, I sometimes had to wait several months to get feedback from my readers if it was in fact worthy. There were even times when I had to read my own post on Sunday morning just to remember what I had written.

So having reached this fourth year milestone, my plan is to continue weekly posts. However, it just seems at some point, I am going to hit a wall where nothing comes to mind to write on. But if I can just make it until I retire later this year, I will have even more time to brainstorm ideas. And with more free time, hopefully I will also be doing even more interesting things to blog about.

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So cheers to another year of blogging!

Toys: Then and Now

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Merry Christmas!

What better topic for the little kid in all of us on Christmas Day than Toys!

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Now that my wife and I have been grandparents for more than two years, it has been really enjoyable seeing all of the toys that are available now. And I must say my wife has done an outstanding job of bringing home lots of toys for the grandkids to play with whenever they come over. For me, having toys in our house again has motivated a nostalgic look back to the ones our kids had 30 years ago. Upon comparison, some of the toys are very similar to the ones we were buying for our kids then but others are quite different.

One aspect, which I am sure, is literally music to the ears of battery company executives is that so many toys now are electrified for lights and sounds using small disposable and thus replaceable batteries.

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For example, 30 years ago many riding toys were pretty basic. Your child climbed on and either the child propelled himself by his own legs or was pushed by mom or dad. Not much else.

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Now they come with realistic sounds, horns or engine noises and with some farm riding toys, even farm animal sounds as well.

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Or it might be a traveling musical band decked out with keyboard and songs for the child to sing along.

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Activity centers that can be activated by any number of nobs, keys or doors to emit a cacophony of different sounds have now replaced older ones, which often just had a bell that could be clanged by hand.

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A word of caution, some of these activity centers need to be switched off after the child goes to bed as we have heard them start to make noises unattended on their own. Nothing like hearing “hello” or “goodbye” or “let’s play a game” suddenly in the middle of the night.

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In addition to all the sounds that toys now make, many also have lights. Some are so bright as to even light up a child’s face.

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And even a toy as simple as a door now has an incredible number of options for lights and sounds that I don’t think we have even discovered them all.   It’s almost like our smart phones, which those of us of the “older generation” rarely know how to use even 20% of their features.

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And speaking of smart phones, there are toy versions that come with touch-activated “apps” for providing even more entertainment. Cell phones didn’t even exist when our kids were little.

There is no question that the addition of all the electrified features can keep a child’s attention focused on the toy even longer than before. But some of the toys we have wanted to get for our grandchildren were just some of the same basic toys that we witnessed our kids playing with growing up.

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For example, here is our son demonstrating safe use of a simple slide on Christmas morning…

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… and here is his own daughter almost 30 years later demonstrating an alternative, less safe approach. On your bottom, please.

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One toy our boys delighted in playing with for hours was this little Fisher-Price garage. We thought this would be a wonderful toy for our grandson who also loves cars. But the modern version was nothing compared to the original and although finding a vintage one in good condition online is a possibility, shipping costs alone can often double or triple the cost of the garage.

But it is good to see that something as simple as a table and chairs…

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…have stayed pretty much the same.

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So what will future toys for our grandkids be like?

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It’s probably too early to be buying dollhouse kits for our granddaughters but I can see there is definitely some interest there.

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And I’m sure Legos and racetracks are toys in our grandkids future. But will the racecars be self-autonomous by then?

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So what new toys did you discover on Christmas morning? Was it something new with lots of bells and whistles? Or was it a vintage toy that maybe you played with yourself growing up? Whatever it was, Christmas is a great time to discover new toys whether you are a child, or a parent or a grandparent. Enjoy your day with lots of play!

A Lot of Things Turning 50 This Year

Fifty years is a pretty significant milestone to achieve. But for me, someone who reached the age of 60 this year, hitting this half-century mark occurred over a decade ago. However, throughout this year as I anticipated the run up to my 60th birthday and even after I had moved well past the actual date, it was interesting to discover how many things actually turned 50 in 2016.

With my own sexagenarian milestone occurring in 2016, I might have been more attentive to other things achieving a significant milestone this year since I do not recall anything turning 50 in the last few years. But this year, each time I came across something turning 50, I tried to think back if I recalled its launch, creation, or introduction. After all, 1966 was the year I turned 10, an age that I certainly can recall memories.

Credit: mghelmets.com

Credit: mghelmets.com

The first memory that I was hit with this year was Super Bowl 50. I don’t recall prior to Super Bowl 1 whether or not I even watched professional football. But I distinctly remember watching this first game in 1966. Maybe my interest was piqued with the excitement of knowing that the outcome of the game would establish a world titleholder but since that first championship game, it has been a rare Super Bowl that I have missed.

Credit: Thedieline.com

Credit: Thedieline.com

Ironically, a common advertiser to these games, Doritos was also launched nationally in 1966. I know I don’t remember this event but I have certainly enjoyed some of the chips over the years, maybe even while watching the big game.

Credit: Startrek.com

Credit: Startrek.com

Although I didn’t watch it at the time, the TV series “Star Trek” was launched in 1966. My memory of this show is actually watching reruns in college over 10 years later. But the show started a dedicated following that lives on through to today.

Credit: Quotesgram.com

Credit: Quotesgram.com

A TV show I do remember watching though was “Batman & Robin” starring Adam West and Burt Ward. With the “POW” and “WHAM” signs being flashed across the screen whenever fights occurred, it would seem pretty cheesy today.   I can even remember going to a Batman movie, which probably starred the same characters and was no doubt, just as cheesy.

The miniskirt turns 50 this year although I don’t recall if I noticed its introduction when I was 10 years old. I think at the time, I was much more interested in cars. But I suspect by the time I became a teenager a few years later, that I was certainly noticing these super short dresses. My reminder for this iconic clothing item debut was a historical fashion exhibit I visited this year at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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Turning to cars, who would have thought the Toyota Corolla turns 50 this year. But for such a boring car, I can’t imagine why anyone would even notice.  Much less celebrate.

Credit: historicvehicle.org

Credit: historicvehicle.org

Now a car turning 50 this year that holds a lot more significance to me is the Chevrolet Camaro because I can certainly remember its launch just two years after its predecessor and fellow “pony car,” the Mustang was revealed. For the April 17, 1964 introduction of the Mustang, I was only seven at the time but I can still recall the paper-covered windows at the local Ford dealership in advance of the date. In contrast, the release of the Camaro did not garner as much public attention or fanfare as the New York World’s Fair inaugural appearance of the Mustang but for me then at age 10, the launch of the Camaro certainly caught my attention. Although I’ve never owned a Camaro, it is a car I have considered purchasing and one I have always admired including the current retro model.

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So for this being a milestone 60th year for me, it has been interesting to learn all of the things helping me to observe it by turning 50 this year. While all of these are 10 years younger than me, it is no less of a celebration that we have shared this momentous year together. Happy 50th!

Golf?

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Recently, when I started my list of activities to do once I retire, golf was on that list. Interestingly, golf really hasn’t been on my mind in quite some time. But a recent conversation with a friend, who retired this year, brought it back to the fore front of my thoughts.

The conversation we were having over dinner was some of his ideas for what he would do now that he was retired. Golf was not a sport he participated in over his entire professional career, but now that he had the time, it was a game he was interested in learning to play. Since then, he and I have had an additional discussion about what he would need to get started. And the conversation got me thinking back over my own, somewhat limited golf game.

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I was actually in high school when I first took up the game. After we moved to Memphis, my dad suggested that my brother and I should learn to play golf. To my knowledge, my dad had never played either so it would be a learning experience for all three of us. My mother found a set of used, rather old “Ben Hogan” golf clubs in the East Memphis Shoppers News for us to buy and the only other items we bought were golf balls and tees.

One summer day, we headed over to Fox Meadows golf course to play our first round (I think it was a day set aside for beginners to avoid frustrating regulars with the slow play of someone learning). The three of us teed up our balls and each hit our drive. With my dad carrying the bag, we made our way off the tee walking towards our balls. Suddenly, we started hearing the starter announce over the loud speaker that each player needed his own bag. We didn’t know what he meant or whom he was even talking to but since no one came running after us, we kept walking (Not long after that, we learned that each of us needed our own bag and clubs and so my brother and I each bought a starter set.). My only other memory from this less than auspicious start was that I don’t think we were even able to finish that first round of nine holes as we lost so many balls; we had none left to play the last hole.

During high school, my brother and I would golf with some friends from our church. Many Saturdays, we would go to Overton Park to play their short nine-hole course—a great place for beginners like us. This whole time, I never had any golf lessons, learning on my own without guidance or correction of my bad habits. I played some in college with one of my chemistry professors but this didn’t occur very frequently.

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It wasn’t until I started my second job that I really began to play golf on a more regular basis. This was prompted by the fact that the company had a golf league. Each summer, they would sponsor three tournaments and then every two weeks, there would be competition on individual play. In these two-week rounds, you could turn in your best 18-hole game and compete with others in your flight for free golf balls, based on your handicap (I was obviously in the lowest flight). At the end of the summer, the year-end tournament would then pair the top finishers from these two-week rounds.

One year I actually competed in my flight at the year-end tournament. The person I was competing against was a much better player than me and so he had to give me about eight strokes to even our game. I think I gave up all eight strokes on the first two holes. After that he, clobbered me. I don’t remember by how many strokes he beat me but because there were just two of us, I got the 3rd place trophy (the first place finisher had already been decided).

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One of the nice things about these two-week rounds was that you didn’t have to play 18 holes at one time. They just had to be 18 consecutive holes on the same course. This meant with summer’s longer days, we could play after work, playing the front nine one week and the back nine the second week. It avoided me trying to find the time on a Saturday to play 18 holes, which was getting more difficult as our kids got older.

Then one time, it came down to the last day, a Sunday before the round closed and I still needed my second nine to be able to turn in my 18-hole card. That day was hot as Hades but I called a co-worker and asked if he would join me. He agreed and so we met at Galloway golf course. I needed to play the front nine and so we able to get off from the number 1 tee. On the 5th hole, a par 3, I made a hole-in-one. It was not the beautiful shot you would see a pro make on television. It was a terrible shot with the ball first hitting in the fairway, a second bounce on the green and the third bounce hitting the stick and wedging between the stick and cup. I joked later that had it not gone in, I probably never would have been able to find my ball as it was traveling so fast when it hit the stick.

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For my ace, I got my name in the newspaper and I still have the ball. Around that time, my father-in-law also made a hole-in-one and he got his ball nicely mounted on a wooden plaque along with his scorecard. I didn’t feel right doing that as the “1” on my scorecard was sandwiched between a triple bogey “7” and a double bogey “6”.

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Not long after that, I took a role on the golf committee. Wouldn’t you know it would be the year we decided to play Fox Meadows, where my golfing all got started? Usually, we play our end of the year tournament at a course where we could reserve tee times weeks in advance. But since Fox Meadows was a public course, it was first come, first served on the day of play. Each golfer could reserve two tee times so we had to get a number of us to camp out in the parking lot of Fox Meadows all night to get the 10 to 12 tee times we wanted when the starter showed up at dawn. Needless to so, none of us played very well in the tournament that year.

As our kids got older and took on numerous after school activities, it became impossible for me to play after work and even weekends were typically tied up with things to do. So at some point, I had to give up playing altogether. Once our kids were older, I could have taken it back up but unfortunately I developed sciatica and had to have back surgery. After that, I was concerned that playing would cause my sciatica to return and so I just gave up any hope of ever playing again.

I missed getting to play in Hawaii because of my sciatica

I missed getting to play in Hawaii because of my sciatica

At least until just recently when I had that conversation with my friend. I recalled how much I used to enjoy being out on the course, taking in all of the beautiful greenery and the immaculately manicured fairways and greens. It is exciting to think about playing again.

My first step will be to go to a driving range and see how much I have forgotten. Or how much of my bad habits I have still retained. By definition, I am not a senior citizen yet so maybe in the years I have until then, I can get a good game back and be able to compete with some old men like I used to see playing when I was young, especially since I will be a senior citizen by that time.