Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Snow, Golf and Growing up Near the Klan



Monday was one of those cold Michigan days where nothing was moving in the neighborhood because the snowplows hadn’t been down the side streets yet. We got eight inches of snow over the weekend and I managed to shovel my sidewalk from the driveway to the front door because Amazon was due to delivery that day and few things keeps them from their appointed rounds---or is that the U.S. Postal Service? I have to admit I’m loving their two day delivery service with Prime. When I got the free introductory month with my new Kindle Fire I didn’t think I would keep the plan but now I’m on the fence about it. If you could see the stack of Amazon boxes in the garage waiting to go to recycling, you’d know I’ve been making good use of the service. 

Can you believe it, I played a game of golf this week! Well, not exactly. It was a game of miniature golf at a new indoor place that uses glow-in-dark balls and probably saves themselves a ton of money on electricity by not having to light up the place. It was fun but the psychedelic colors outlining the course, the busy wall murals that glowed in the dark and the god-awful black carpeting with patches that looked like neon barf gave me a headache and reminded me of bad parties in the ‘70s. It was a senior hall event and I tied for second place in my foursome plus I got to brush up on my billiards geometry doing it. Prior to the game, five of us Gathering Girls had lunch together at a popular café near-by that’s known for their good food. We were laughing so much it’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out. 

I hate regular golf and, trust me, I tried hard to like the game. My dad was a life-long golfer, started out as a caddie before he hit his teens, even taught the game to high schoolers at one point in time and in retirement he played nearly every day, sometimes twice. My brother, niece and various others in the family play and a guy I dated back in my 20's golfed. I was highly motivated to learn. The boyfriend and I even took lessons offered at a golf course and all I learned was that I REALLY hated golf. If I want to take a nice walk I don't need to chase a little ball I can barely see as it flies down the fairway, assuming I’m lucky enough to hit it straight. 

Still, some of my best memories of my father revolve around the game. I don’t remember if we ever golfed together but my best ever movie experience was taking my dad to see Tin Cup with Kevin Costner and Don Johnson playing the lead characters. There was a scene in the film where Costner's character was in the woods and had an opportunity to cheat, but he didn’t do it even though his caddie was encouraging him to shave some shots off his score. According to Dad no real golfer would ever do that. “It’s a game of honor,” he said. “But wouldn’t the temptation be overpowering,” I asked, “when he could have won the tournament?” “He would know,” my dad answered, “he would know in his heart that he didn’t win fair and square and a hollow victory is no victory at all.” He saw the game of golf as a metaphor for life, a game you play against yourself for self-improvement---facing the challenges, knowing how you handled them are the true lessons and pay-off in a game where there's always room for improvement.

Fast forward to a time when Dad was dying of cancer and Tiger Woods had broken the color barrier in professional golf to go on to win the 1999 PGA Championship. Dad loved Tiger. In his last months, I read him every single magazine article I could find about the young golfer. My father was so proud that he had lived long enough to see America’s race relations change that much over his lifetime and we had many deep conversations about what is now labeled ‘White Privilege.’ Dad grew up in a town in Southern Illinois where grown black men would step off the sidewalk whenever a white adult or child like him passed by. He once hid in the woods watching the KKK hang a black guy and when a storekeeper in town died Dad saw him all decked out in his Klan outfit while lying in his coffin which, according to dad, was the only time Klan members revealed themselves.

My dad saw both sides of prejudism growing up. His father, an immigrant from Italy who worked in the coal mines, was paid less than whites but more than blacks and Irishmen even though they all worked side-by-side doing the same thing. In a museum of racial memorabilia I actually saw a sign like the one my dad described seeing at a coal miners' office. It listed the step-down wages paid to six different nationalities and "Niggers." The push-back against immigrants in this country is nothing new.

It might not seem like it when we’re knee-deep in our struggles to make the world a better place for our descendants but when we view the progress made by the generations that came before us it's easier to see that we are creeping closer and closer to a par game in racial equality. And that game is a game of honor, one where we know in our hearts when we’re not playing fair. ©

29 comments:

  1. What a great post, Jean. Your Dad had it just right. We always know if we've been fair, and if we haven't, the victory is hollow. When I was growing up, the Klan was active. I haven't seen them in years, but I'm sure they're still around. When I was living in Maryland, I went to the grocery store one day, and they were standing on every corner, spouting their philosophy.

    My father was a caddie when he was a teenager, too. I'm not a golf lover, but H loves it. I do think part of it is because it's a game of self-improvement.

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    1. My dad worked in a factory and he never said it but I think the quiet of the golf course had a big appeal, too. But of course he already loved the sport by the time he was an adult. I may not like playing golf but I sure like golf movies. The Legend of Baggier Vance is one of my all-time favorites. So much good advice about golf in that movie applies to living a good life as well.

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  2. Insightful post, Jean. Thank you for sharing. The pushback against immigrants is felt the world over, unfortunately. What is it about humans that we feel the need to sort and separate other human beings from ourselves based on origin or skin colour? I'll never understand.

    Deb

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    1. It's sad that we've had a resurgence of the push against immigrants. I'll never understand it either. We are a nation of immigrants. During the Salad Bowl era we took in people from all over the world and a generation later we'd managed to melt together into an interesting tapestry the enriches us all.

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    2. P.S. Do you still blog as The Widow Badass? If so, the link between your posting name and your blog is broken.

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  3. I can't understand the fascination of playing golf, either, much less watching it as a spectator. But I suppose it's the same as a non-resident not understanding my passion for reading - after all, you know the romance will have a happy ending, the murderer will be caught at the ending in the crime novel, etc. Sadly, I've lost my interest in reading - the internet and websurfing have gained a convert.

    I've always found it amazing that growing up where you did, you can see the discrimination so clearly where many cannot. I find the Rs baffling, and the Evangelicals ('God is in charge') unbelievable. ~ Libby

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    1. I have to admit to watching my share of golf games on TV---the only sport that I'm actually interested in enough to do that with.

      Good observation about reading, Libby. I know people who think reading after they've left high school is crazy! I guess we all need a hobby. My book reading time was cut down by the internet, too, but we're still reading while web-surfing...just shorter stories.

      I think some people who practice discrimination do see it clearly BUT they think it's their White Right to feel superior. That I will never understand. By the grace of God we're born one color or another. How do you have pride in something like that?

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  4. Your father sounds wonderful Jean!! Our fathers must be around the same age. That was my fathers experience being Italian as well. I used to hear the stories of having to sit in the back of the bus and being spat on. It is hard to understand at times how they could feel this way when they all came here for a better life. Well, except slaves of course. My father ended up being just as bad as those that tormented him and I could never understand it no matter how many "discussion" we had. UNTIL he had bi-racial grandchildren. The sun, the moon and the stars were his grandchildren and he did a 180 and dare anyone make a comment. Oh he changed and it was beautiful to see. It was slow but it was real and beautiful to witness. My nieces and nephews can't believe he was ever like that when we are all together telling stories. My father can't either. Nice to see someone dramatically change to what I call the "good side" :-)

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    1. My dad was the most fair-minded and ethical man I'd ever known. It is hard to understand how your father, having experienced the same kinds of discrimination that my dad and blacks experienced could end up just as bad. BUT to change when his grand-kids came along shows some sole-searching and strength of character. A wonderful example of what we can achieve when love overpowers hate.

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  5. I hope you're right, but it sure seems at times that racism is alive and well and has been let out of the closet.

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    1. Racism IS still alive and well but I actually see the turmoil we're in now, with it out of the closet, as a positive in the long game. It's getting harder and harder for the hard-core racists to find a place where they aren't getting push-back. Racism isn't the norm anymore nor is it still built into our institutions like it was in in our lifetime. People of all colors are fighting to keep gains made, not just the oppressed like in the Jim Crow era. That's a good sign in my book.

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  6. So, so many similarities between our fathers. It is astonishing. (Sidenote: I took a golf class to learn the game in order to hopefully play with my dad. I met my husband in it instead.)

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    1. Comparing notes on our lives is what makes the blog community so much fun. If I could I'd clone our fathers and distribute them around the world. Great role models!

      So if you took golf to play with your dad but you met husband in the class, it's almost as if your dad was match making. How cool is that...well, assuming you kept that husband around. LOL

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  7. Totally agree with your Dad. I never understood how cheaters actually thought they "won" anything.
    Did not know that about deceased KKK members. I had thought we were making progress but our new politics has made it OK to be open about racism. My biggest hope lies in the youngsters of today. Most seem open hearted.

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    1. I do think most younger people today are more open-hearted than in my generation. They've gone to school with mixed races, socialize together and mixed marriages are more accepted. The racists that came out of the closet recently thought they'd have the majority of their own race behind them and that has not been the case.

      Did you hear about the newest release from Monopoly? You can now buy a limited edition for cheaters. What an awful message that sends to society! I love that game and have several special edition but I won't be buying that one!

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  8. I do love golf. As the kids got older, I played 2/3 times a week. My husband played every single day and also taught it to our high school golf team. I just glanced over at the only trophy I've won in my life. Woman's Club Championship--1984. I couldn't afford to play now, but I'm still pretty good at Putt Putt golf.

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    1. I think Putt Putt golf and miniature golf are the same thing, aren't they? Either way, I did enjoy playing it and would to it again without the neon colors that gave several of us headaches. But even that cost $10! I was shocked at that price The last time I played it was $3.00 LOL for 18 holes.

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  9. I have never understood golf and I have never played ... for the same reason! Not that I could hit the ball that far ... but I certainly couldn't see it! Standing around in the hot sun ... ugh! I'd rather take a walk.

    Our Dads must be of the same generation! Love and miss mine a lot!

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    1. The rules of golf are easy to learn but that's where the 'easy' part ends. It truly is a game of self improvement in your stance, swing, choice of clubs, patience and concentration.

      I miss my dad a lot, too.

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  10. I absolutely loved hearing about the kind of man your father was. Mine was very good-hearted, but only finished the eighth grade, and was raised by parents who were less open minded, but probably typical of their generation. I know I was brought up to judge people on an individual basis rather than anything as shallow as skin color or ethnicity, but I don't remember specific conversations.

    Golf. I know many people who love it, but it didn't do anything for me when I took it for a semester in high school. I don't have a competitive bone in my body, so most sports lack appeal. I wasn't good at any of them in school either, so I'm sure that sealed my dis-interest in sports.

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    1. Your father had more formal education than mine. I can't remember when he had to quit but I'm thinking it was in the 5th grade. Not that unusual back in those days. Parents teach by example and not always specific conversations but my dad did both. You and I were both lucky that we learned to judge by character and actions.

      Don't get me started on how much I hate sports. My eyes glaze over when people talk about them.

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  11. BEAUTIFUL! (I hate golf too.) My father talked about the Klan and prejudice in his rural hometown on the farm and small towns of southern Indiana in the 20s and 30s. It's appalling. We have come far....and that's why any setback feels like a failure and any politician who speaks in any way against moving forward rather than back is so abhorrent. Your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes....Powerful!

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    1. My dad's experiences weren't too far off from your dad'---the late 1900s through the '30s. The setbacks are disheartening but hopefully temporary, same with the woman's movement.

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  12. Jean:

    you know in my past 25 years of living in this country as an immigrant,I never seen any kind of discrimination against me. being woman & in highly technical field I never saw any racism or sexism against me. I am thankful to all civil rights movement which has made this country such a great place to live, where your success depends on how hard you work & hopefully if you are in right field then being successful is not hard. I would not like to call this country our home if it shows sign of racism against immigrants, who in my mind are working hard & doing right things. I remember watching legends of bagger vance golf movie & had loved it too based on your bloglong long time ago.

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    1. Gosh, it's been a long time ago that I wrote about that movie. I try to watch it once or twice a year because it's got a great message.

      I'm really glad your experience is what it is living as an immigrant. I do think living on the East Coast is historically more accepting of other nationalities than other places. I wonder if you've traveled much across the Heartland but I sort of remember you going to our National Parks? If so, you've rubbed elbows with a cross-section of America and Americans.

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  13. Jean :

    we have traveled extensively within US though not so much in midwest traveled lot in west coast & east coast, though we still have to visit national park in south or north Dakota ne which president's faces carved on the mountain park still have to visit that one. I have actually felt people in south are nicer & have time, they r in less of hurry unlike in north people r rushing every where, but I feel that's how it is in most of the countries people in city are always in rush & self centered unlike you go to villages. In India also people in north r more aggressive than people in south.

    Asha

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    1. I think you've traveled more than I have. Other than California I have not been to our West coast states. I have been to Mount Rushmore, though where the faces are. Your observations on the people you've meant are very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

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  14. You've brought back a lot of good golf memories: not because I played, but because I caddied for my mother. She and her friends played a good bit when I was in high school, and I remember them enjoying it for the exercise and gossip as much as anything. She was quite a Tiger Woods fan, though, and loved to watch golf on tv. It's never been my thing as a game, but it was fun to watch with her, because she'd get so involved.

    One thing many people don't know about the Klan is that it wasn't solely focused on race. In Iowa in the 1920s, it was also about immigration and Catholicism, and it pervaded the Democratic party in some pretty nasty ways. I still need to write about my grandmother's response to the cross burnings in her town. From this perspective, it's pretty danged funny, particularly in the ways it affected my life.

    As for the south, I think you'd be surprised at how things have changed, even in the past decades. I had to smile when I recently was in a coastal Texas cemetery, and saw the mix of Hispanic, Vietnamese, and Anglo stones. There was a time when separate cemeteries ruled. No more.

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    1. I look forward to you writing about your grandmother and her Klan experiences. I knew the Klan also focused on immigrate and Catholics, since my grandparents fell into both categories. Even up here in the north the cemeteries were separated in the '40s when my grandfather died. Times are changing and it's good to stop and look back from time to time so we can acknowledge how far we've come.

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