Thanksgiving Weekend

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art ... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
– British writer C.S. Lewis (1898 to 1963)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and despite this year’s madness, I have much to be grateful for. Of course, family comes first. I have an incredible wife, who is loving, understanding and all-so patient; two daughters who know when their Papa needs a big hug; a son-in-law who can talk about sports; a soon-to-be-3-year-old granddaughter who cracks me up, and a wonderfully entertaining collection of other close relatives – a brother, cousins, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews.

And I will certainly relive many of the treasured memories I have of my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins whose love was all-embracing and remains everlasting. Like so many, I have been blessed when it comes to family, although this one liner does have a ring of truth to it: “Our family is temperamental – half temper, half mental.”

Next – and not terribly far behind – on the count-my-blessings list is friendship. There are many types of friends – known-since-birth friends, childhood friends, high-school friends, miracle-we’re-both-still-alive friends, college friends, business friends, neighbor friends, share-a-beer-with friends, you-can-call-at-2:00-a.m. friends, a-relative-who-has-become-a-friend friend, friends-of-my-wife friends and golf friends.

I love all of my friends! I say that sincerely. When it comes down to the simple matter of time spent together though, my golf friends rank way up. (I do have a good number of friends who fit into two or three categories – i.e. known-since-birth friend, you-can-call-at-2:00-a.m. friend and golf friend. Those kinds of friends are stuck with you whether they like it or not.)

When I look back on this year, I see it as bittersweet. When the world was hunkered down and searching for TP and bingeing on Netflix, I had golf at our wonderful club with my golf friends. Golf got me outside and my golf friends were there to talk about normal stuff such as family travel plans, Titleist versus Callaway drivers, our Royals, the upcoming elections and the theory behind Bitcoins. Now that I think about it, once we were out on the course, you could forget about the virus. (Okay, those damn foam rubber doughnuts did drive me crazy.)

When one of the young men in the bag room recently asked me how I played, I replied playfully and sarcastically that “It doesn’t matter that I double bogeyed the last two holes and lost money again. I play golf to enjoy nature, get some exercise and be with my friends.” You know, there was actually more truth than humor in that reply.

I love golf! It is a fascinating game. As American professional golfer, commentator and author Gary McCord (born 1948) said, “Golf is a puzzle with no boundaries. You make a move and the course make a countermove. It lulls you to contemplation and never runs out of questions. It’s a game of a lifetime; enjoy every aspect it has to offer. The offers are endless.” However, while an occasional solo round of golf is enjoyable, it is friends that get me out there every weekend and then have a drink in the Men’s Grill afterwards.

It’s amazing how much I know about my golf friends. I can tell when someone’s game is off because his backswing is too fast. I know who can take and appreciate a good needle and there are some who never get the needle. I have golf friends who need to talk about a health issue or a family problem. There are the ones who consider golf to be their escape from the real world and you keep the talk light. We know each other’s thoughts on political correctness because of what they say – or don’t say.

I am so lucky to have golf friends who will listen to me rant about why KC Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo needs to blitz his cornerbacks more often and why I support charter schools, school vouchers and reforming the teachers unions. In turn, I want to know what Chuck Hunter’s current medical problem is or the details on why Charley Benson switched putters after 20 years or Bill Quirk’s take on the Georgia senate races or what is going on in Alex Stehl’s mind when he wears a white belt after Labor Day

Let me end with a toast: Here’s to family and friends who know us well but love us just the same.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Allan Stark

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