I spent much of the summer before I turned 16 with Grandpa and Grandma Green in their lake house in Chetek, Wisconsin just as I had done previous years. I spent my days reading and writing letters to my friends.
Sometimes I helped Grandma with things around the house and sometimes I spent time with Grandpa.
Grandpa Green had a few hobbies — reading, playing solitaire, drinking beer in bars and golf. One day he asked me if I would like to learn to play golf. I don’t remember if I was actually interested in playing golf, but I was interested in spending time with him, so I said I would like to learn. He took me to Chetek’s golf course and I acted as his caddie while he played golf with his buddies. I remember mostly being bored and hot and the golf bag was heavy.
When I told my mom about it, she said that the reason I was in Chetek in the first place was to spend time with Grandma when Grandpa was golfing. While that was news to me, I had no problem telling Grandpa that I didn’t want to go golfing with him when next he asked. I could tell he was disappointed, but I didn’t want to tell him that my mom said I should spend time with Grandma instead. I told him I did want to learn, but just not that day.
Before I left for home that summer, he gave me three golf balls and some golf tees. Maybe he thought I might try to golf in Elgin? I am not sure, but I thanked him and put them in a bag and took them home.
That November Grandpa developed a blood clot in his right leg and had to have it amputated. Besides being afraid for my Grandpa — someone I loved as much as I loved my own parents — I felt guilty because I’d declined to go golfing with him after the one time. I knew he would never set foot on a golf course again despite people telling me that when he got his prosthetic leg he’d golf again if he wanted to.
The next summer he developed another blood clot and had more of his leg amputated, but he suffered a heart attack during the amputation and died a few days later, on July 9, 1973. He was 63.
When my mom, who was at the Mayo Clinic with my grandparents, called to tell my dad about his death, I listened to Dad’s end of the call through the door to my attic bedroom. I sat on the steps, sobbing while holding the bag of golf balls and golf tees that Grandpa had given me. I cried out of grief, but also guilt because I told him I didn’t want to go golfing with him the previous summer.
I still have the golf balls and golf tees. I keep thinking I should just get rid of them, but I cannot do that.