The Thanksgiving weekend is winding down with Saturday football rivalries, which out beloved sports media has blown all out of proportion again. The Santa Ana, which brought about one of the warmest, if not the warmest turkey day in recorded thermometer readings history. Christmas…er, holiday decorations are blooming all over. And i’m rededicating myself to get through this Christmas season and our annual trip to Signal Mountain without gaining twenty pounds. Fat chance. No pun…oh yes there was a pun intended.
But before we kick Christmas preparations into high gear, i have one more thanks to give. It’s sort of general, but it’s really specific.
As i was driving home from Friday Morning Golf yesterday, it occurred to me i have a second family, not an official one of course, but no less real. There’s this group of men i’ve been lucky enough to have run into over the last thirty-eight years. We are not an official organization although we have made fun of ourselves in that regard, calling ourselves the curmudgeons, even having a celebration of the “Order of the Curmudgeons” and unanimously electing Marty Linville as “The Grand Whiner” culminating with anointing him with a fez embroidered with the group name and his moniker.
The closest thing we’ve got as a regular meeting is that Friday Morning Golf outing, taking place every early morning of the fifth day of the week since the spring of 1991. But the closeness of the group goes far beyond just golf and nineteenth hole beer every Friday. It has expanded. Our wives have been included. Others have become satellite members or are totally included, nearly always through golf. There is no limitations on group affiliation except for the requirement to have a very thick skin. No one escapes razzing, name calling, put downs, and must laugh at themselves along with the rest of the group, only to plot how to get revenge in the same manner.
The initial affiliation came in 1979. Pete Toennies, Al Pavich, and i ended up on the Amphibious Squadron Five staff for a WESTPAC deployment. Afterwards, we all kept rotating in and out of the Southwest corner, and never missed a chance to get together, nearly always golf was involved somehow, although racquetball and running were also joint ventures. And oh, i forgot, we partied, dined, and consumed quite a bit of adult beverages. You see, that was an intrinsic part of our culture.
JD Waits, who later was my shipmate on the USS Okinawa and roommate in perhaps the most perfect apartment and setting for single men since the beginning of bachelorhood, became part of the group. Of course, we blew that and both became engaged and married instead of fulfilling the potential that condo with a boat slip occupied by JD’s twenty-five foot Cal promised.
Then, during our last tour of active duty, Rod Stark and the aforementioned grand whiner, Marty Linville, became my golfing partners on weekends (the gestation of Friday Morning Golf). Pete Thomas was also at the Amphibious School in Coronado and has become a permanent satellite member.
Jim Hileman, whom i met through Maureen at our wedding, is also a significant contributor and full-fledged member, often one of the primary…er, excuse the French, shit tossing initiators of the curmudgeons. He fits in.
Our golfing skills have eroded. For that matter, so have our racquetball and running skills taken a hit. Most of us have had major surgery or some damnable condition that comes with growing old. But we still play every Friday.
But it’s much more than that. We could call it camaraderie, esprit de corps, even friendship, but we don’t spend much time fooling with that kind of name-calling. Yet there is no doubt in my mind each one of us would help out any of the others of us if needed, and sometimes not even if needed.
But as i drove toward home and a major NORP, another Friday requirement driven by the early, early morning round, i thought about the guy and his wife who deserves special mention from me.
When Pete and i returned from that 1979-80 deployment, i was a renewed bachelor having gone straight from Texas A&M to Hobart, Tasmania, Australia to join the deployment in progress. i had no place to live except on the ship. Pete and Nancy didn’t think that was right, and they insisted i stay in their small home on I Avenue in Coronado. i stayed in the makeshift bedroom, which had been the dining room for about a month before finding my own place. Pete and i played innumerable evening games of racquetball, ran together, and i was even invited to play Sunday beach volleyball with Pete’s SEAL buddies.
The three of us have wandered in and out of each other’s lives since then with Maureen joining us after our marriage. We’ve spent numerous vacations together, usually staying in one of their time-shares. The results have been legends unmatched with laughter.
The Toennies have helped either Maureen, myself, or our family members on too many occasions. Pete has instigated a number of actions to gain employment for friends and family…and the two of them are always there.
As they were two days ago. Our plans for the holiday were somewhat discombobulated by a number of factors. We were leaning on going out, but once again, Pete and Nancy intervened, asking us to join them. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving. Nancy’s 97-year old father and former UCLA quarterback and pro-player (and Georgetown basketball player), an interesting man with interesting tales, Ben Regis, and Dan, the Toennies’s son. Sarah joined us.
Damn near a perfect day.
And i really couldn’t ask for more. Thanks, Pete and Nancy…for everything.