The Bench

turf-valley-resort-golf-hole-pond 13 tee box13th hole Hialeah, Turf Valley MD.

The golf cart slowed to a stop.  From the passenger side a man in a flowered print shirt pulled his legs from the floor and placed them gingerly on the hot blacktop.  His companion repeated the measure only with athletic smoothness which time had only slightly dented.   It was the 13th hole on the Hialeah 18 at Turf Valley, the annual home of the T-Fest golf and convocation which touched off under, usually, sweltering conditions.  This year was much the same.

Six foursomes had been established consisting of veterans who made consistent attempts to be on hand with newcomers that were coming on the scene, primarily from T- Welsh’s family – shirts and skirts.  The contingent gathered from the mid to upper East Coast and were mostly now dialing in on serious thought to the next course of life, dessert.  The options were as open as the various dessert bars found in Baltimore; Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, Red Mango, Patisserie Poupon…McDonald’s.  Life was winding down.

John Galbally had been gone now Forty-Two years.

The foursome with the ‘flowered shirt’ was second to last in the queue that had teed off at approximately 1:05 pm under a bright blue nether spackled with white.  Humidity cloaked all.  The course itself was emerald green with leafy adornments graciously and hideously tracking the narrow fairways.  It was a best ball tournament, begun over 20 years earlier and had propelled itself into the lore of Phi Kappa Sigma/Penn.  For it was from that three- story Cuboid, laughingly plunked down in the middle of the University of Pennsylvania, thumb to nose, fingers waggling, that these golfers here arrayed had begun their speed boat ride into adulthood. Not before that wonderful interlude of adolescent time in ‘never never land’ had played its hand, though poked hard by Stat 1, Stat 2, Econ 101, and Sociology – The Family. The Captain Hooks’ of  reality.  The years were lacquered with Division 1 sports and inter fraternity endeavors.  Yet it was not a jock fraternity. It was an unique kaleidoscope of shared companionship developed between the years of 1968 and 1976 enjoined with exuberance, laughter, confrontation, joy….and a little beer.

You sure?

Yeah, a little worn.  You go and come back when you reach the 18th.

Alright man.  I’ll be back.

And with that exchange the foursome became three.  Their Captain, D. Tritton,  could see the exhaustion which had crept in.  He gave a thumbs up and looked into his bag.  Jumper smiled and waved, his a little more jerky and those hooded eyes held up by a that unique smile.

THE SWEDE had slid East from Ohio to take his talents into the hallowed Palestra, but found that the walls of Phi Kappa held more sway..  He was like many of his class, multi talented,  but taller.  A lot taller. Smart, quick witted, girted in wryness.  He waved a goodbye salute, after hitting his iron to the fringe of the green, and was gone, taking his group, now minus one, down around the beautiful pond that menaced the green.

He sat in stillness.  The tournament had been under way for over two hours.  He took sight of the Cart Girl who was stopping near his teammates, now by the green.  She alighted her cart and sped toward the statue likeness on the bench..

I have a beer for you!

Great!  Thank you.  Here. Ah…kind of you…them!

 

He was halfway through his second cigar and another beer was welcomed, even though the brisking wind from the Northwest had begun hammering the humidity.  He thought he heard thunder.  He looked up, high into the now changing skies, then down toward the disappearing cart.  As she drove away, his mind drifted to that night when, in the “Gambler,” he, Q, Schmatz, Gotz and Chuckles had ripped off Pat’s steakhouse.  Danny, a former high school track star was the ‘bag man.’  Had grabbed the “bag,” brimming with cheese steaks unpaid and taken off for Chuckle’s car, a broken down Rambler that had no reverse.  The “Gambler”.  You punched buttons to shift.  The R button was missing. As Danny loped toward them an apron smocked figure wielding a huge knife or hatchet came speeding after, making up ground!    It was dark, they were stoned, and nothing seemed to matter.  Chuckles was laughing while Gotz was yelling for Schmatz to hurry up!  The back door was flung open and Danny slipped in.  The acceleration of the Gambler was not NASCAR material and the ax wielder closed.  But the interlopers began to make steam and, with all now joining in laughter, they headed away, grabbing cheese steaks from the bag while watching the enraged figure disappear ever, so, slowly.

As the Cart Girl pulled away he felt a freshening on his right cheek.  Cracking the beer, his eyes surveyed the 12th green, where the last foursome congregated to plot strategy on a birdie putt.  It was Tom and his brothers,  John and Robert with nephew Rob.  This was their first outing at the tournament.

It was T who had masterminded the tournament, along with Jay years ago when all had tykes.  It was a great time and the T-man had continued to plan and spearhead the annual John Galbally golf fest, herding  the cats each and every year. Sometimes hard to get to with life’s immediacy transcending at inopportune times, but,once there, harder to leave!

John, Chuckles, Galbally, the conquistador herald of goodness, friendship and fun.

Hey!  You taking a vacation??

A breather is all.

You’re on the bench!

Yes, I know.  Jumper pointed it out to me.  One of the reasons I stayed.

You OK?

The best!

allllright….how you getting back?

Q is coming for me when they get to 18.  I’ll see you there.

O.k. brother.  You take care now.

Happy smiles saluted him in passing, after all missed draining the ‘bird’  He watched them loft shots over the pond, one putting on a Welsh body dance, persuading his ball on the short ‘hairs.’.  Another birdie attempt, the last missed opportunity momentarily forgotten. They waved lightly as the  white carts moved off.  He sat alone.

 

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The bench.  “In Memory of Debbie Welsh.”  T’s wife and the matron of togetherness who solidified the gadflies for so many years. The event started with tykes in tow and now it was pictures of grandchildren, excepting T’s clan who were almost all accountable for.   Deb had hosted the Friday night gatherings along with her wonderful sister Peg, which, in the earlier days, measured up to the ‘front door’ of the Frat, but never inside!   She was the balance who had been with T and the gang since he hustled her away from a Penn State football player and she garnered Phi Kap status.  Indeed, many of the ladies had been with their ‘boys’ since those days. Tom and Deb were part of the club until the sudden wickedness of cancer claimed her.  T’s “brothers” were shell shocked and had come in numbers to her funeral, to say goodbye and support their friend. The bench was a simple but warm way she would always remain a part.

The sky rumbled and flashed.   There was a possibility all golf would cease.  However, it never passed to that stage, simply  dripping lightly, like moist eyes shedding infrequent tears.  The cooling felt nice.

I miss you.  And the others who have followed.  I never took the time to really tell Malcolm what a warm person he was: Sincere.  Wickedly funny in a dryness that stunned.  And Kenny.  He made me laugh with his cadence of New Jersey stories.  The Gotts?  He stripped my heart naked with his sardonic genius..  And Debbie?  How she could hang with this rift raft and maintain the decorum of civility!  The school ‘marm’ to all, excepting T!

He suddenly felt compelled to talk about the brothers and sisters on the course…to tell him just a little something.  His mind floated over the various carts:

Ron is here, looking better than ever.  T calls him our Spiritual Leader, as he is.  All the Big Five are present; Gordo, Mobey, Doc, Jim-Bob and Swede.  I always found it compelling that given the characterization of the group, they never ‘lorded’ it over the “house,” but grafted with all.  We little five never got the traction they had.  Ah, we did, but it was different I guess.   And they held it so strongly along with several others of their class, a togetherness -bond which coronated  the years.  Frank, Ollie, Josh, Newall, others; all were equals, all for one you could say.  It carried on to us, don’t you think?.  And man, were they all so very different. But then, so a like.  That was the embodiment of the next class and then ours.  A standard likeness .

Tony Jackson has been a great friend for Mobey these years.  Worked together.  He can handle his share of beer and hit a shot when needed.  Frank is here.  Always a gentleman and one who cared truly for you.  I mentioned Jay, but also Lisa, who has come before, brought Anne this year.  They got rid of the medical smocks for the weekend and are playing with Pam, Jimmy’s wife of a million years and Tina, Swede’s better half, though half his size.  Jim Bob has always been one of my favorites, if there can be such.  The guy just has the smile that accepts all.  And Doctor DuPont’s laugh continues to crack me up.  Successful all…but that is beside the thought.

Stew and Robby are stringing along too, the “Brew”typically with his family, the hilarious Roe and crew, but Stew shot in stag this year.  The continuous optimist with a warmth that ‘hugs’ all.   Robby is diving coach at Penn and continues to be athletically involved.   Good golfer too.  He and Jack Samanski ‘threw’ me a couple of years ago with their play, only to find out Jack’s whole family grew up playing!  Joe made it back one year but this year Jack brought his younger brother for the first time, Jim.  He had stayed in the Midwest for college.

It was sweet when Dickie was able to come.

Denny Dear, T’s Life Partner now that Gotts left us is out talking his ball around the course.  He loves all sports and has been a kick.  Amy, T’s daughter, has her husband and his brother involved this year as well.

And of course here is T.J.  He of all reminds me of you, excepting I don’t think you would have kept up with him on the golf course.  No matter, he has that infectious smile which propels warmth.  He has led more brothers to be able to place their names on the John Galbally trophy than anyone.  Believe me, Q and I wouldn’t be inscribed without him!

The sky began to break, slits of light skidding through the openings.  He took one last pull on his lager and saw in the distance a white cart ‘speeding’ his way.

That will be Q.  Chuckles, we had a time, didn’t we?   Q, Dirch, T and us?  All three have made good and are still on the ‘fairway’ of life, with Dirch and T having grandchildren.  Q decided, what the heck, his girls were so fun why not have a second batch!  I can’t say what hurdles or holes any or all have fallen or tripped over, but I know we all have.  God put you in our path those many years ago and we stumbled onto an hilariously joy ride that your going tore up.

The cart came to a smooth stop.  Think interstate, New York, rush hour!

Hey you good?

Yeah.

Hop in, we are ready  on the 18th.

You hitting alright?

I just wish they would pick a sport we could kick their asses in!

They don’t have to, you just being here kicks their asses

As they skirted the holes heading to the 18th, the passenger couldn’t help himself. Looking up into the sky, he remarked;

I love you man

Yeah, me too.  Just wish we were closer.

It’s fine.  It’s right now.  I’ts fine.

They drove up to the t-box on 18, a short par three.  They looked down on a small green guarded by trees, sand-traps and now at least 14 carts waiting, watching and ‘drinking in’ the last two foursomes.

He surveyed the gathering from his seat, never once moving out of the cart. He could not make out who was where but he knew who was there, and not.  He felt a twinge in his heart.

Q…I love that sight.  Go hit the damn ball right into them!

The NOW was indeed fulfilling.  Once again he was sitting on the ‘ledge.’

 

 

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