My paternal grandfather died when I was 4 years old. He was 74. Obviously, I was too young to remember it, but I’ve heard the story since reaching adulthood, and here’s how I understand it happened:
It was July in Mississippi, and the temperature was at least 100 degrees that day. Lord knows what the heat index was. In spite of the heat, my grandfather and his friends went out to play golf, because that’s what they did every day. At some point, my grandfather felt sick, so his friends took him home. He went to lie down, my grandmother left the room (either to call the doctor or get him some water, I don’t remember which), and when she came back into the bedroom, he had died.
I’m still angry that he died that way. A man his age had no business being out in that weather, but he was stubborn and wanted to play his stupid daily golf game. (This is just one of many reasons why I despise the entire “sport” of golf.) I feel cheated that I never really got to know him. I have a few vague memories of him, but mostly, all I know is what other people in my family have told me about him. And that’s lousy.
Last week, I called my parents’ house on my commute home from work – my mom and I talk on the phone almost every day, and that’s the usual time for our daily check-in. When she answered, my mom said she was on her way to the supermarket. No big deal, I just said, “oh, ok.” She went on: “Yeah, the heat index was over 110 today, but your dad went out to play golf anyway, and he’s feeling kind of sick now. Water didn’t seem to help, so I’m going to go buy him some Gatorade.”
My dad is 70 years old. My brain instantly calculated that when this baby is 4 years old, my dad will be 74, the exact age that my grandfather was when he died. I suddenly had this image of history repeating itself, and… I lost it. It’s really unwise to anger the Crazy Pregnant Lady.
My mom put my dad on the phone so I could yell at him while she went to the store. He tried to blow it off and say that he was just a little dehydrated because he didn’t drink any water while he was playing golf.
Me: WHAT??? Why on EARTH weren’t you drinking any water??
My dad: Well, I don’t want to have to stop and go to the bathroom while we’re out playing…
Me: Aren’t there porta-potties available?
Me: Isn’t the entire course surrounded by woods? GO PEE ON A TREE!!
Him: Well yeah, we do that all the time.
[I have to be honest, that made me giggle. At 70, my dad is the youngest of his little golf group. I guess the aging prostates don’t let them make it for the full 18 holes anymore. At least not without a couple of pit stops.]
[Also note: “pee” is about as close to profanity as I can get with my dad. I have occasionally been known to let a “hell” slip, or say that something “sucks,” and he’s only stopped lecturing me about that since I got married. I guess he thinks it’s now Dave’s problem if I have a potty-mouth. Ha!]
Me: So if you have an option for peeing while you’re out there, you have NO EXCUSE not to keep yourself hydrated. If you insist on being so stubborn that you just have to play golf in that heat, at the very least you should be drinking bottles of water and Gatorade to keep yourself from getting sick.
Him: Well, at least I was using a golf cart, I wasn’t walking.
[Another aside: He’s only started using a golf cart in the last couple of years, and again, it’s because his friends are all older than him, so they want to use a cart instead of hoofing it. My dad says golf carts are a waste of money, even though he’s been a paying member of that golf club since before I was born, so I’m pretty sure he gets free cart rentals for the rest of his life if he wants them.]
Me: Hey dad, guess what? Granddaddy was using a golf cart too! And he was only 4 years older than you are now! And you know, if you die before your grandchildren even get a chance to know you, I’m going to be really angry.
My dad is not the easiest guy to communicate with; you can talk to him, but you always wonder if you’re getting through and if he’s actually heard anything that you’ve said. According to my mom, though, I apparently “put the fear of God into him” with my little lecture. He’s now putting bottles of Powerade in the freezer at night, so he can take them with him to the golf course; they thaw out almost immediately in 100+ degree weather, but then they’re still cold when he goes to drink them. Pretty clever.
My mom says he’s been giving her Beverage Progress Reports when he gets home from the golf course every day, to let her know exactly how many Powerades and bottles of water he drank while he was out, so she won’t worry. (And, I assume, so she can report back to me when we talk on the phone.)
Because he was 40 when I was born, I have always worried that my dad wouldn’t live long enough for my kids to remember him. I’m very grateful that he’s as healthy as he is. I just hope he can maintain it for another 15 or 20 years. If yelling at him is what works? Well then, that’s what I’ll do.