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McCollum's Column: Barbecue, golf and listening beyond the music

Posted: May 31, 2014 - 6:10pm

Golf with a limp is arduous.

The fellowship and the break from the recent rains was the salve.

Each spring, a scholarship fundraising golf tournament at my old high school in Memphis is on the calendar.

This time, I was partially on the disabled list. I trudged about — or rode about in a cart between, drives, chips and putts — still feeling the effects of a strained Achilles. Actually, the injury slowed me down on my backswing so my shots straighter than at ay time in recent memory, the distance lacking.

I don’t recommend the method of improving accuracy.

But the experience, as the sunlight sifted through the crowds with an occasional breeze and the expected showers avoided us, transcended golf and the surface element of play.

The fun, as it often is in a scramble tournament, was to share in the joy of birdieing or parring a hole in which everyone contributed a good shot — or the joy when someone holes a putt that saves a par.

That was emotion and fun in the sporting sense.

What occurred before and afterward created emotion that touched deeper in the pysche.

Through the years after high school, the realities of life have created a roller-coaster.

While in elementary, junior high or high school for a dozen years, our classmates were together in a small, contained community. We played together, laughed together, agonized together, suffered together, studied together, worked together and cried together — often over relatively small things like an upcoming math test or ballgame or a budding teen relationship.

The dynamics of those wonder years have changed.

Some folks now are ashamed or their looks or health to attend reunions although all of us have visible flaws and signs of aging.

Some of the talk when we gather now concerns hearing aids, knee or hip replacements.

Some of the shared experiences involves parents — deaths, changes in lifestyle or what to do with inherited property that doesn’t have quite the same value.

Some folks have deeper struggles in the family — a suicide, a failed marriage or two, children trying to find themselves, the loss of jobs, jobs that are no longer the same, the challenges of downsizing and adjusting to a world that will never been the same. There were health issues — a few folks recovering from surgeries or facing impending surgery, a classmate who had a melanoma caught and removed just in time.

Another friend, one of the best athletes in our class, had a near-death experience last year and had to go through serious rehab to relearn how to do almost everything he once did so naturally. But he has recovered nicely, now grateful that he could try to play a few holes of golf.

Several teachers who were mentors to so many of us are no longer with us.

As folks ate barbecue and danced and visited, there was a greater appreciation of life itself — minus the trappings of superficiality.

The band got loud. That would have been cool in another era. “But we are hard of hearing now and we don’t want to be hard of hearing that much worse,” laughed one woman. She joked to a friend while at the same time capturing part of the cultural shift in a nutshell when she noted, “We want to be able to listen to other people as well as music.”

One of the servers smiled in the buffet line and said he was Kingsbury High School, Class of 2007.

He was African-American.

Same school. Different environment. Our class was exclusively WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) and we were challenged by English and Latin. Now, the school has students who represent 32 different languages.

The stock pot has become a melting pot.

So, that trip about the golf course with a limp became symbolic to me of what we all faced at Reunion 46.

We are were all hobbling (physically and psychologically) in some manner but moved on with a greater appreciation for life and its nuances ­— “forward but not always straight,” described a friend.

There was something magical about how older graduates mingled and frolicked and gyrated in sort of time warp, interrupted by physical reminders that we are not what we were (or thought we were).

And, there was the recent graduate appearing in good physical shape, hustling in food service, his fingers frantically working a smart phone to try to resupply when the food got low. He did it with a smile and a sense of mission.

Community has a binding effect, a restorative effect — and a healing effect in ways that surpass the physical and is enhanced by a magneticism we don’t fully understand.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

 

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