This is the time of year that we held the after-funeral lunch in memory of our dear friend Dee, who, well into his eighties, had headed out several times a week for a round of golf. He loved the game; he loved the outdoors of it, having spent most nigh forty years of his life sleeping the light away, and going to work through the night hours. He seemed to be eager for the sunshine, and the fresh air and the striding across great swaths of green, after all those years of drawn shades and missed light.
That sunshine and the greens and the mighty thhhwaaaack of club against ball---his powerful shoulders and arms could drive a long one right out of sight. He was a gentle man, courtly and mannerly, in the way of so many big men---stooping a bit from his great height to acknowledge a greeting or an introduction gave him an air of polite graciousness, merely by dint of his having to incline his head and bend a bit.
Shorter men could merely grasp your hand and look you in the eye. Dee bent in gentle deference to your presence, and you felt the dignity and the import of his regard, as your own hand was enveloped completely in his huge warm one.
We gathered that day on his lawn, eating the lunch that my family had prepared. I had asked in his last days, as his family’s resignation and dwindling hopes led them to plan for the inevitable, if I could do a lunch at the home after the funeral. They were so sweetly grateful, but firmly insisted that they pay the grocery ticket. And so we came to an agreement---we’d get together to plan the menu, then I’d take it from there. My family and I would cook and arrange and garnish, getting out all the pretty dishes and platters and cloths, and all would be ready when they returned home.
We made a lovely lunch, of their favorites and local recipes and old Southern standards. We arranged tables on their lawn, theirs and ours and those of another neighbor, with chairs carried through the gate by the willing hands of eager-to-be-busy grandsons in unaccustomed neckties and shining shoes, and by my own son who wanted to do something really special for a wonderful neighbor. Umbrellas dotted the lawn, along with colorful cloths and cushions, and the luncheon was set up on the dining table in the house.
People just kept coming in the front door and wending their way through the rooms, for hugs and sympathetic words, and emerging into the shady yard with plates of food and big glasses of iced tea and lemonade. Dee’s wife, my dear friend Honey, was sweet and welcoming to friends and neighbors, and their several daughters hugged and greeted old friends of their own, as well as their Dad’s friends and golfing buddies. And it felt so good to have things go so smoothly and look so nice, without their having to worry about any of the details.
It was a beautiful day, much like this one---quite pleasant in the August breeze, with quiet conversation and an occasional low burst of laughter in reminiscence. We talked and ate and remembered. The daughters poured a round of Dee’s favorite Scotch, and we all drank a toast to such a delightful friend.
Later in the season as I was leaving for Scotland, I asked Honey for one of Dee’s golf tees. She gave me a nice old-fashioned wooden one, which had been a gift from the grandchildren. I carried it in my take-on bag, and on the lovely sunshiny afternoon when our tour group visited St. Andrews, where the game began so many centuries ago, I found a beautiful spot beneath an intricate old fence, knelt for a moment, stuck the tee into the ground, then stood, and with my foot, I pushed it deep into that grassy earth.
I’d told one of my seat-mates about what I was going to do, and when we alighted from the bus, quite a few of them gathered around and accompanied me as I went in search of a proper spot. As I finished, a soft AWWWWWW went up from my fellow travelers, and they were all smiling.
That’s been years ago, and I imagine that the varnish has dissolved away, the wood has melted into the damp ground, and the tee is a part of that place which created the game Dee loved so much. I hope so.