I come from a somewhat large family. Youngest of four, born girl-boy-girl-boy. My mother was a bookkeeper, my father a plumber. Both worked very hard to provide us with everything we needed…and some of the things we wanted. We did not go without, but were hardly wealthy. We were very middle-class, living in a middle-class suburb of Akron, Ohio. My childhood was a breezy, trauma-free experience, save one.
Brady Lake was a nearby bucolic setting of woods, picnic areas and a nice lake. Popular summer spot. One summer day when I was six years old my extended family had a picnic at Brady Lake – fifty or so of my relatives for a fun afternoon of swimming, horseshoes, softball, swimming and lots of food. Very Norman Rockwell-esque. It was a great day.
I am a loner by nature. And on that day, late in the afternoon, I took a walk by myself into the woods. Picking up caterpillars, dragging sticks in the mud, just having six-year-old fun in the woods. Then I had the feeling that I should head back to the picnic site – it was getting late, maybe 7 in the evening or so. So I headed back. When I got to the picnic site, nobody was there.
Everyone had left. The picnic had ended. They packed up everything, got in their cars and left. They remembered everything…except me. My mom and dad had driven separately, and in the confusion of packing up, mom thought I was with dad and vice versa.
Of course, I did not know this.
I panicked. And what does a six-year-old do when he panics? He screams. Loudly. And runs and cries hysterically. And that is exactly what I did. I ran and I screamed…and screamed and ran…where’s my mommy? Where’s daddy? Why did you leave me? Was I bad for going into the woods? Was this punishment for eating my boogers or teasing Michelle Blocksom on the playground last week at school? Will I ever see them again? MOMMY! DAAAAAAAAAAD! WAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
As I ran, I came across a parking lot. On the other side was a large fenced-in area where people with funny looking sticks were swinging away at small white balls. I ran towards that place, still crying, still frantic. A man who I later found out was the owner of this place, saw me – “What’s the matter little fella?” “MMM-MMM-MY MMOMMY AN-AND-ANDDD DUH-DUH-DUH-DDDADDY WEFT ME! WAHHHHHH!”
The man took me over to his driving range and tried to calm me down. And I distinctly remember my eye being caught by this odd activity taking place. I pointed at the people and asked the man “Wuhhh-whaa-whhat are dey doing?”
“Why they are playing golf. Would you like to try?”
That man gave me a golf club and a bucket of balls. And I started swinging. And suddenly, I wasn’t crying anymore. I wasn’t shaking anymore. By the tenth ball, I wasn’t lost anymore. By the twentieth ball, I had found something that, little did I know at the time, would fundamentally change my life.
Remember my mom and dad? I had forgotten about them. I was now having fun. But on the drive back home, mom had stopped for gas, when she noticed dad drive by and I was not in his car. Now panic gripped HER with the realization that Jerry was still back at Brady Lake. She burned rubber out of the gas station and high-tailed it back there. Pulling into the parking lot next to the driving range, she saw me and frantically ran over.
“Hi Mommy! I’m golfing!”
And that's how it started.