Less Than Great Expectations
A golfing geezer friend, Byron Smedley, recently confided to me that he was considering throwing in the towel after playing a pathetic round of golf in a match play event which sent him to an early shower, losing 6 down with five holes to play. If this painful dismissal wasn’t enough, Smedley was utterly destroyed in his next match, losing ten down with eight holes to play. These two shellackings left the once confident and formerly skilled Smedley shattered, on the throes of a nervous breakdown. Smedley was leaking oil like the Valdez; he was taking on seawater like the Titanic; it was apparent that Smedley desperately needed to find a psychiatrist’s couch before he did himself in.
It wasn’t that Smedley could not handle losing that was behind his meltdown, as he had many years of experience in this area. No, it was the creeping realization that his golfing skills had deserted him, leaving him with an overwhelming emptiness that he no longer had enough “game” to compete, that he had become a guy who “used” to be a good player, but now was someone to be kind to with comforting words “well, you know, he just doesn’t have it anymore, but let’s just let him play along with us for old time’s sake.”
Smedley was suffering the pain that comes when a person perceives that he is over the hill, now to be dumped on the has-been pile, to become invisible, a shadow, a shuffler to be ignored – all that which lays ahead for the senior citizen that has lost some of his marbles, be they physical or mental. Losing the edge in golf is only a variation on the same theme: this frustration could surface in many other facets of life such as playing bridge, woodworking, dancing – any and all areas where the adeptness of an aging person has diminished. In China or Japan this fading geezer would be revered and acknowledged for his wisdom; in the U.S., the withering geezer is shuffled off to Buffalo, to the back bedroom where the telephone never rings, to the ten by ten room at the local assisted living lodge. He is seldom seen and rarely heard.
Smedley had time to reflect on his Waterloos at Indian Hills, agitated thoughts banging around in his psyche but now slightly less upsetting as the shock of his collapse began to wear off. The issue before Smedley had clarified, framed with great intensity: “To golf or not to golf: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler to accept the reality that good golf is gone and to move on to other less aggravating pastimes, like gardening or reading or writing(!), or to take up the clubs once more against a sea of troubles, and march to the range and practice, practice, practice!”
Like most weighty inner deliberations, the mind swings to and fro: one moment, a peace is found in surrender, putting it in the memory closet: the next minute, a nagging voice commands, “Don’t be a quitter! Get back out there! You had a bad day, forget it, tomorrow has great promise!”
How then does one come to a final decision – if indeed, a final decision can be reached in the shifting sands of one’s emotions. Realizing that he needed the help of a professional shrink, Byron recalled that this mother’s cousin, Sigmund Smedlowski, was in the business under the strange name of the Mind Over Matter Clinic, and made a reservation for Smedlowski’s couch.
After Smedley, prone on the worn leather couch, spilt his guts for fifteen minutes, Dr.Smedlowski, his eyes rolling back into his head, had heard enough. “Smedley, you are such a wimp! Get real! You played the “age”card, whining about being over the hill, blah, blah, blah, feeling sorry for your self, but the truth is you got lazy! Man up, Smedley!”
Smedley, blubbering away, confessed that laziness had overtaken him, that he hadn’t practiced for two years, and that he was delusional expecting to play decently without putting in the work. He agreed with Dr. Smedlowski that all the blather about becoming “invisible” was a pitiful grab for sympathy. Don’t cry for Smedley, he had it coming!