The new widow wonders what to do with the golf cart.
It wasn’t her golf cart. It belonged to her husband.
But he’s gone. So, suddenly, it’s hers.
She never used it. But her husband did. A lot.
But not for golf. Too quiet a sport. Not bold enough for her husband, his personality, his voice.
He’d always been a fan of baseball, a sport rife with chatter and banter. A catcher, he was good in his youth, as quick with a throw to second base as with a zinger to opposing teams. In high school, he got a look from minor-league scouts. But he got away from the game as he went to work, raised a family and otherwise took care of things. Such are the hazards of growing up.
But in retirement, he rediscovered the game. Well, close enough: softball. In his retirement community, he’d play four or five or more times a week, on multiple teams. At first, in his late 60s, he was a spring chicken among players as old as 90. But time wore on and he slowed down, and he became another one of the old-timers. But he kept playing, day after day after day. And, just like in the old days, his mouth kept motoring, day after day after day.
No one minded. Actually, they enjoyed his moxie, teammates and opponents alike. He’d badger the other dugout mercilessly, much to the delight of both sides. They were, after all, very senior citizens. And his ribbing would spark a cacophony of cajoling among both sides, giving an oversized importance to what was otherwise just a softball game among old men. But how could it be merely a pastime for old men? Listen to all the rowdy back-and-forth. This must mean something more, no? Prime of life, baby. Prime of life.
But he wasn’t always a loudmouth. Sometimes, he’d notice the struggle of another player, maybe one who long ago wasn’t a high school all-star. So he’d take him aside and quietly suggest just trying to get the bat on the ball, to leg out a hit or move a runner along the bases — something to help the team out and feel good about. The simple advice often worked, just like when he helped his son in Little League a very long time ago.
So, aches and pains no matter, he kept coming to the ballpark. And that’s where the golf cart came in. He’d putter each day a mile or so to the diamond — to play or coach or ump or watch, yipping and joking all the while. And when all the outs and shouts were over, he’d putter back home to his wife.
He spent a lot of time in that golf cart, so he decorated the heck out of it: Cubs keychain, colorful ball caps, Italian-American stickers, all sorts of doodads. As if leading a parade, he’d colorfully arrive at the ballpark, though his voice — egging on the other team even before the first pitch — might arrive a few minutes earlier.
Sometimes, his goodhearted wife would come to the games and cheer with the other wives. But she drove a car. Better air conditioning. The golf cart was his domain.
Last fall, the cart stayed put more and more. A back injury had slowed him down. The plan was to have surgery in January, let the back recuperate for a year, then come back strong.
But those plans didn’t work out. The surgery somehow went bad. And now he is gone.
So the new widow wonders what to do about the golf cart, along with a lot of other things. In none of her eight decades had she ever lived alone, but now she is and it’s very strange, she says. Very strange.
And quiet. Very quiet.
That’s how the ballpark will seem opening day. The players are almost as befuddled as the widow. What is a party like when the life of the party has gone for good? Players plan to wear a patch with his initials on their uniform sleeves this season, and that’s a very nice gesture. But things still will be very quiet.
But not as quiet as at the widow’s home. So she busies herself with tasks that have to be done after a spouse dies. And one of the quandaries is, what does she do with the golf cart?
I don’t know. And I hate that I don’t know, because she is asking me for advice, because she is my mom. And neither she, nor I, nor anyone else knows what to do with the golf cart.
In such situations, other families have to consider what to do with heirloom jewelry or furniture or other traditional keepsakes. But we have a goofy golf cart that says “Kiss me, I’m Italian.”
And its seat is unexpectedly and unsettlingly empty.
So, for now, at least, I tell her to keep the golf cart. I’m not sure why. If she were to sell it, it’d make more sense to do so now while it’s in good shape.
Still, I urge her to hold onto the golf cart. Because, right now, that seems like an important thing, to hold on to whatever she can. Maybe that makes no sense. Actually, little of this makes sense. Things seem off, unclear, incomplete.
Death is hard. But life sometimes seems harder.
And quiet. Like never before, quiet.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.