A PROFILE IN COURAGE

A PROFILE IN COURAGE

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

A Profile in Courage

Pete Farricker never played in a U.S. Open or won a state amateur, although he was a scratch handicapper who could get up and down from a bird feeder when he had to. Before arteriolateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) began wrecking his body years ago, he was a terrific golfer and twice as good a person, a master of humor and compassion who changed the lives of everyone who knew him. And hopefully, the lives of a few who never will.

His death at the age of forty-five was, of course, a tragedy—this wonderful man cut down in his prime by an illness as mysterious as it is vicious. That Pete left behind a wife and three-year-old son is sad enough. That two of his life’s greatest accomplishments—starting a family, becoming the equipment editor at Golf Digest—occurred after he turned forty is snarled fate. Pete’s time atop the mountain was far shorter than the climb.

It would be nice to say something remarkably profound about Pete, except the eulogies delivered at his funeral were beautiful and simple, reflective of a guy who didn’t ask for nearly as much from this world as he gave it. Long after being diagnosed with ALS, Pete played every horrible lie without a complaint, made us laugh and made us cry, made us live and wonder why. Sitting in an office next door to his for six months was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Employed as a carrier pigeon in the affluent suburb of reality known as the PGA Tour, I’m reminded that courage isn’t the guy who makes a five-footer on the seventy-first hole or knocks it stiff to a back-left pin on Sunday afternoon. Courage is coming to work four days a week after your arms have taken the rest of your life off. Courage is letting somebody stick a spoonful of tuna salad in your mouth, then looking your little boy in the eye and telling him it’s good to be alive.

Courage is asking somebody to follow you into the men’s room so they can pull up your underpants after you’ve used the toilet. Just the other day, I was watching NBC’s telecast of the U.S. Senior Open, where the word “patience” was used to describe men who make long strings of pars or hit their ball into the center of a three-tiered green. Excuse me for getting a bit oversemantical, but I’ve seen patience. It looks nothing like that.

Patience is needing fifteen minutes to go from your bed to your wheelchair, another ten minutes to get from your wheelchair to the van, then wondering if you can’t talk because your throat is dry or because your vocal cords have permanently shut down. Patience is needing forty-five minutes to leave work at the end of the day, twenty of which you spend hoping your ankle will stop quivering. Patience is waiting for someone to turn the corner so they can help you off the floor.

One of the worst things about ALS is that your body turns into a puddle of applesauce while your mind stays totally functional. Driving Pete home one evening, I asked him what he felt like inside. “Like a 110-year-old man, ” he gasped, not sounding a day over 90. Near the end, his speech had become so slurred that when he said something, you’d have to ask him three or four times to repeat himself. Believe me, it was always worth it.

The last time I saw Pete he was so weak that his toes were curled up and frozen in different directions. He couldn’t lift his head, couldn’t eat, sleep or drink. Someone had to feed him ice chips to keep him hydrated. You knew the end was near, and so did he, but inside that ravaged body, there was a hearty, healthy, bulletproof soul.

“How’s life on the tour?” he asked me five or six times before I understood him.

Not half as good as life with you, Pete. Not half as good as life with you.

John Hawkins

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