MEDINAH, Ill. –- Your correspondent has been back in his native Chicago area four times since late May, each time for a big occasion: Son’s wedding, mom’s funeral, high school reunion and Ryder Cup.
In the parlance of golf, baseball and Denny’s, that’s some sort of grand slam.
Perhaps the only thing missing is a Cubs’ World Series. But then this story here is non-fiction, not some unthinkable fairy tale.
Anyway, upon pondering these four life milestones, it became clear that one tends to laugh at a wedding and a reunion and cry at a funeral and even a Ryder Cup, the latter particularly if you are Ben Crenshaw, Hunter Mahan or Davis Love III.
Also clear is that a high school reunion is the least expensive. I believe the fee was 65 bucks for an open bar, bad hors d’oeuvres and the chance to not recognize anyone after a few decades. A weeklong pass to the Ryder Cup costs the paying customer 10 times that.
As for getting married and dying, now they are big business. I mean, if you’re not careful, tying the knot can cost even more than untying it. And losing a parent is all about blood, bills and tears.
In case you haven’t experienced any of these big moments, I’ll explain what it’s like in this little primer:
• SON’S WEDDING: At first the son says to you, “Dad, I’m going to get married and we want to invite 450 people.” When you ask, “Who is going to pay for it?” he immediately cuts the guest list down to 300 and eventually settles on 250.
Weddings are particularly tough on the pocketbook of the bride’s parents. I mean, if you have, say, five daughters who get married, you could go broke before the Social Security system goes broke.
In this particular case, my son and his wonderful wife had a wedding golf tournament the day before the nuptials. The golf gods were particularly crazy that day, for the bride made a hole-in-one and the groom broke par on his own ball.
As the groom’s envelope-pushing father said in front of a large ballroom gathering that night, “Let me get this straight. The bride made a hole-in-one and the groom shot 69. That’s golf’s version of premarital sex.”
I got the sense not all the laughter was nervous.
One of the major highlights came at the beginning of the reception when the two protagonists appeared to be tardy for their own party. Suddenly a humor video, featuring Rickie Fowler and Jim Nantz and involving a faux search for a lost marriage license, played on a big screen in the ballroom. About 10 minutes later they entered the hall as happy newlyweds and YouTube stars. (Click here for the video.)
• Mom’s funeral: I’m not sure how anyone prepares for this. Nor do I know how this is going to fit into a so-called playful column. But I do know that the tears eventually stop, even though mailbox bills seem like they never will.
There were many blessings in this story, though, because my health-conscious mother didn’t suffer. About 24 hours before dying because of heart failure, she collapsed at a cafe after paying $9.21 for two hot dogs, fries and a soft drink at a cafe.
I have the receipt and plan on keeping it. I also plan to boycott hot dogs, fries and soft drinks.
This was one strong woman. She somehow navigated life without a checkbook and credit card. It goes without saying that, without those two things, it’s harder to pay for weddings and funerals than reunions and Ryder Cup expenses.
• High school reunion: Because this wasn’t my fifth or even 10th, believe it or not, I spent hours staring at the name tags on many chests in an effort to identify people. (Hopefully the women weren’t offended or, for that matter, flattered.) Some former classmates were recognizable, but many seemed to be pulling my leg because they looked nothing like they did decades ago.
On display were wrinkles, gray hair, extra weight and foggy memories. Makes you wonder how the no-shows have fared.
Anyway, the clear highlight involved a man recalled as the baddest dude in the school. He came dressed impeccably, complete with the only top hat there. He said he got thrown out of school at 15 and almost went to the state penitentiary. “I was very bad,” he said. But reform school straightened him out, he found spirituality and now he owns a funeral home.
Not only that, he didn’t appear to have many wrinkles.
• Ryder Cup: As a golfy kid from suburban Chicago, your correspondent has been looking forward to this extravaganza at Medinah for a long while. My take is Chicago is the best golf area in the country, because of its numerous good public and private courses and its caddie program. And at times I’ve thought the Ryder Cup might be the best event in sports.
Or, at the least, the best event you can’t see.
In case you haven’t been, you should know that it helps to be 8 feet tall as a Ryder Cup spectator. Or have a media bib to get inside the ropes. Otherwise, you have to work to get a good look at the action.
It’s the only sporting event where the spectators need to be more agile and mobile than the athletes themselves. I’ve often thought it would be nice to have the stilts concession.
Because this Ryder is in America, you will see a lot of red, white and blue and hear “USA! USA!” chants. In fact, I just heard some while typing this in the media center, and the thing doesn’t even start until Friday morning. Seems the players weren’t the only ones practicing on Wednesday afternoon.
Believe it or not, the Ryder Cup somehow starts at 7:20 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. That probably means a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call for some paying customers from other suburbs. Either that, or only farmers will be in the gallery.
But then the electric scene on the first tee on opening day is worth being a part of it. Particularly if you are tall and not a night owl.