Eye On the Ball: A matter of choices

COURTESY PHOTO Bailey, an excellent choice.
Bailey, an excellent choice.

I’ve been making choices for a long time and would like to share some of my good and bad decisions.

When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be a golf professional. Since all I had to do was hit a golf ball well, I didn’t think education was important. I also had parents  who didn’t care if I attended school or what my grades were.

Thinking that education was not important was a poor choice.

After graduation I realized how much better my life would have been if I’d paid more attention in school. Every book I read after high school was a self-improvement book, so I was basically self-educated.

I didn’t have the grades to go to college so my next decision out of high school was the U.S. Coast Guard, a great move because I needed discipline. While in the Coast Guard at the age of 19 I made what would be another great move.

I married a girl in my class by the name of Anne Dennis. Of all my choices, that turned out to be the greatest. We stayed together, lived and worked together for 59 years. We became one with our decisions and our money.

Without a doubt, our greatest decisions were Bobby and Nancy, Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, Shelter Island and building our home. But we had our share of bumps in the road.

We lost Nancy when she was only 41; we both lost our entire families; and one year ago I lost Anne. Being without her is something I always refused to think about. Now I have no choice, because even one year later, she is all I think about. I try not to bore people by mentioning her, but I find I am saying her name without realizing it. Every time I hear something that would make Anne happy, I realize she’s not here.

Oh, if only I could get one more chance. That’s one reason I’m writing this column because you still have that chance. When I look around my home I realize that my home is Anne, not me. I never understood it until now, but everything in the house was done by her. This was her first and only home and she loved every piece of it.

Last week my son said that one of my closest friends, Rick Southwick, was having a 50th birthday celebration in Florida. When Bob said we should go, I naturally said what I always say, “No, it’s too far and too expensive.”

Bobby said, “Dad, didn’t we learn anything from Mom?”

He pointed out that Rick is one of my closest friends. He was right, and even though I rarely fly, we were at JFK on Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend and back on Monday morning.

We had a great time at a terrific party. Bob and I surprised Rick along with his brother Bill and sister-in-law Lia. When Rick saw all of us appear out of a dark room, his reaction made it all worthwhile. It would have been something Anne would have wanted to do. The trip was one of my good choices.

This past year has been long and tough. I’m hoping things change in the future. The following is probably not one of my good choices, but I hope to break it soon. Nancy and her husband Kevin lived in East Hampton and that was the place I would go to see her. I haven’t been back to East Hampton in the past seven years. I’m sure this will change.

The night Anne passed, her final words to me from her hospital bed in North Shore Hospital were to go home and play with the dog for an hour and stay downstairs with him all night. As badly as she felt that night, she was concerned that her dog was lonely.

After she passed we found one note in her purse and it had nothing to do with me or Bobby. The note said, ”I have a dog, his name is Bailey. Be careful when you open the door because he runs out and might get hit by a car.” The note continued to talk about how to take care of him and what he eats.

These final words are the things I’ve done every night for the past year.

We had many arguments in our lives, but our rule was that divorce was never an option.

Try to really enjoy the person you picked to live with for the rest of your life. I really miss mine.

My message today is like the song: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”