From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

A Matter of Course

Morning sun clearly defined the mountains, promising a pristine day, and luring him to answer the call of the links. He had left the house early, but not too early. Not before helping Mary through their daily routine.

Lionel wiped the dimpled ball, nestled it on the green of the 9th hole, and picked up his marker.

Not before gently lifting her in and out of the bathtub. Not before shepherding her back to the bedroom. Not before erasing the ravages of another sleepless night by combing her hair into place.

Lionel gazed at the lush grass as he bent his knees and gripped the putter.

Mary would love walking the course, listening to the hushed stillness. He could point out the geese gliding on the pond and the fragrant crabapple trees laced with blossoms. A love of the outdoors and God’s creations. That was something they shared.

And they shared a lot. Six daughters. Twenty-two grandchildren. Allegiance to church. Devotion to each other. That hadn’t changed, but other things had.

Lionel lowered his head and hunched his broad shoulders over the extra-long club.

Once, Mary’s slender athletic body complemented his rugged six-foot-five-inch frame. Now, crutches supported her stooped shoulders.

Once, she agilely whirled with him on the dance floor. Now, the only spinning she did was a turn through the shopping mall in her wheelchair.

Once, her nimble fingers flew at the sewing machine, tucked a blanket around a slumbering child and tidied the house. Now, crooked and gnarled, they sat—idle—in her lap.

Lionel stiffened his wrists.

Rheumatoid arthritis invaded their union only nine years into their marriage. He watched it ravage his wife’s body. The changes it made were both immediate and gradual, until—quite clearly—the disease determined their course in life.

Lionel closed his stance and shifted his weight forward.

Some people thought he carried quite a load. But as Mary was able to do less, he simply did more. He merely broadened his definition of husband, the job title he considered most sacred. After all, it was a pledge he had made to Mary before God. So he took upon himself new roles: cook, housekeeper, beautician and chauffeur. Even nurse.

He and Mary were good together. They should be. They had perfected their teamwork through twenty-four surgeries. He knew better than any health-care worker how to lift her, turn her, tend to her personal needs. That last hip replacement came at a high price for them both: a permanent infection that added a new element to their routine. Now his large hands tenderly applied fresh dressings twice daily to the draining wound.

Lionel drew the putter into a slow backward stroke.

He rarely glanced back at their old dreams. Instead, together they forged new ones. Like purchasing a self-contained motor home so he could assist her in the bathroom, something just not acceptable in public restrooms.

Lionel completed his putt with a firm follow-through.

And they could travel. They could visit their kids. They could attend the important family events most precious to them: baptisms, graduations, weddings, funerals.

Lionel watched the ball roll forward in a gentle arc and rim the cup. He listened to its satisfying drop and thonk. He made par.

Mary always said other husbands would have left long ago. She even called him “her good-hearted man.” But he liked to remind her that those wedding vows some forty-five years past were sincere—and binding.

As his stubby shadow nudged the rich turf, Lionel glanced at the late morning sun. He leaned down and, with his thick fingers, plucked up the ball, brushed it on his pants and tucked it into his pocket.

There would be other days to play golf. But, for now, home beckoned. Home—and his Mary.

Carol McAdoo Rehme

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