To Take Flight
By Jack Bogut
Joni and I went to Montana on vacation for two reasons: we wanted to stay up late, eat too much, see almost no television, and spend as much time as we could with relatives and friends; and we needed to scatter part of my Father’s ashes on a golf course.
Dad learned to play golf very late in life when he was 65 years old and would be the first to admit that he was fairly awful at the game. He played left-handed (but was right-handed for everything else), couldn’t hit the ball very far or very straight and was one of the worst putters any of us had ever seen, himself included. But nobody enjoyed the game more than Dad did.
He was not given to profanity but he did deal in creative commentary on both his own game and ours that kept us laughing and off-balance most of the time. This was particularly effective during crucial putts on the “Beer Hole.” A lot of shots were missed because of his mumbled remarks. He also liked to run over your ball with at least one wheel on the golf cart and comment on the depth of the divot, all the while insisting it was “a natural lie” and had to be played from where it was.
Late in his life Dad used either two canes or a walker to get slowly from the golf cart to his ball and the people behind us always seemed to understand, particularly after they met him as they played through our group. He had a way of making friends instantly that I envy to this day.
In answer to my Father’s last request to scatter his ashes, a swarm of eighteen of us—his children, grandchildren and their spouses in varying states of rest and confusion—got a tee time at 6:00 in the morning and took him golfing one more time.
On the first hole, we scattered some of Dad’s ashes about a hundred yards off the tee in the center of the fairway. That would have been a good drive for him and the first time on the short grass in quite a while. Then we scattered some of his ashes in the rough, some in a sand trap, and some in a water hazard because Dad spent a lot of his time getting in and out of each, literally. We also sprinkled some if his ashes in the cup after my nephew sank a forty-footer.
And finally, on the eighteenth hole with a soft morning breeze at our backs, I threw a handful of Dad’s ashes up into the air so that the wind could carry him down the fairway one more time, without his walker or his cane, under his own power, free again from the chains of old age.
At that moment, a flock of birds rose up suddenly from the grass and took off toward the majestic white and gray peaks of Glacier Park. Then a jet roared up into the morning sky from the Kalispell airport and streaked away. We all looked at each other.
Dad was both a free spirit and a pilot. And there they all went…
We didn’t finish the hole.