When I was young, my life was a series of firsts. Now, in my seventh decade, it’s become a litany of lasts.
I used to take for granted dining at a favorite restaurant, seeing a friend on the street, or my cat rolling into a ball at the door awaiting my return. Of late, it has dawned on me that there will be a last time for all of these. I just don’t know when.
I never recognized this phenomenon playing out in my mother’s life, until it was too late. She experienced most farewells, including the last one, alone.
But she never saw her solitude as a painful companion. Her favorite pastime was golf. She loved the outdoors, and walked the fairways well into her 80s, even after her regular foursome had passed away.
When she died we gave away her few possessions, but I could never bring myself to part with her clubs. I suppose I thought that someday she might return for them.
For years I was reminded of her as I left for work each morning. I would see her old canvas golf bag on its pull cart nestled into a dusty corner of my garage. Memories would flow of her taking me to the course with her as a small boy.
Always patient, she would help me try to hit the ball with clubs taller than me. When I got tired she would wheel me along on her bag. We sang songs and looked for birds. Our favorite was the mockingbird. Its call still reminds me of her.
She not only taught me the game, but how to be happy with nothing more than a blue sky, green grass and wind in our hair. Later, after she was gone, every time I played I remembered the simple joy it brought us.
After she’d been widowed for 20 years, there came a day when the sun was shining and the birds singing. She loaded her clubs into her little red station wagon and set off to play nine holes.
On the final green, a lone figure, the dusk settling around her, she took her usual three putts then put away her clubs. It would be the last time. A few days later she suffered a stroke and moved to a retirement home.
Her golf bag was washed away by Hurricane Harvey. Now all I have left in that corner of my garage is an image of her standing there next to her little bag gesturing for to me to join her … for one last hole.