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Chapter 3—Life Talk, Golf Talk

His curiosity stirred; Jim shows up in the kitchen to hear the ‘unbelievable.’

“What? What? I want to hear,” he says.

“Guys, start setting the table. We’ll eat in five minutes,” says Lani, getting the dinner ready.

During dinner, she tells the little story again, to the delight of Pat, who’s watching his dad’s reaction.

“Isn’t that a cool story, Dad?”

“It sure is. You did everything by yourself, Lani. You discovered the game for yourself. Most of us, in America, are taken by our parents to the golf course for the first time. Good for you.”

“I don’t want to change the subject because I love talking about golf, but I would rather talk about how we can help the Holley kids. After dinner, why don’t we take a quick drive to town and pay them a short visit to offer them our support. What do you say, guys?”


Pat called his friend to let him know that they would visit them. Cliff sounded down and he was very short but said he would be glad to see his friend. Lani prepared a thermos of delicious homemade hot chocolate. She brought with her a large box of European butter cookies to complement the sweet drink. Chocolate boosts endorphin production—better known as the feel-good chemical of your brain—and the Holley family could probably use a lift.

Jasmin, a young, pretty black woman with puffy eyes, opens the door. With a forced smile, which looks as if it hurt her face, she welcomes in her guests. The two Queenan boys and Lani give her a big bear hug and their condolences. Lani hands her the hot chocolate and the cookies and offers to serve them.

Pat hugs his best friend and Isa and they settle on the couch while Jasmin brings the tray with six hot chocolate mugs and a bowl of cookies. Isa is the first to taste the cookie dunked in her hot chocolate.

“Yum, this is delicious.”

Jim stands behind one of the padded chairs in their living room while the two ladies take a seat.

“Cliff and Isa, we came for a short visit to tell you that we are here to help you in this challenging moment of your lives. We want to ask you and your mom if you guys wish to, at least for a while, become part-time members of our household. We would like you kids to come to our house every day after school, have some refreshment and spend the afternoon with us. This would give your mom time and space to deal with the tragedy and handle things, without worrying about you. We’ll take care of you and drive you back home every evening. What do you say, guys? What about you, Jasmin?” Jim looks at them and waits for reactions.

“Jim, that is so kind of you. If we ever needed help, it is now. Lani, can you manage three of them?” Jasmin’s sad face grows relaxed and softer looking.

“I have lots of stories for them and things to do. Plus, it would be a joy for me to expose you guys to my native cuisine,” says Lani with tenderness.

Cliff has something to say, and they all wait for him to muster the courage to speak.

“That’s great, but I have to tell you. Sierra Douglas called me this afternoon and told me I can work every day, after school, for two or three hours at SuperFoods, bagging groceries. I start tomorrow. Her mom is the manager there, so I can’t come directly from the school—”

“Cliff, we know that, and we planned for it. Sierra told me already on the school bus after she talked to her mom. Lani works in town, and she gets off work at 4. You guys can come home together, and you’ll have a snack with her.” Pat enjoys seeing the plan progressing well. It was his idea.

“If I go to your house, will you let me play with Doogie? Pat told me he has a sweet boy cat,” says Isa.

Everybody starts lightly laughing.

“Of course, Isa. Doogie is my cat, and you can be his best friend if you want,” says Jim, almost tearing at the little girl’s need to fill up her heart with love.

“We are incredibly grateful to you. We are in pain and sadness but also in a bind. I will need to get a job, and we are in danger of being evicted. I can only pay for two more month’s rent. Having the kids in good hands will help me a lot, and the pets will be a comfort to them.” Jasmin hugs Lani and Jim.

“Okay, then we are all set. Isa, tomorrow we take the school bus together. Bring to school with you whatever you want to have at the house in the afternoon,” Pat says gently to the little girl as he gets up to leave.

Jasmin rinses the thermos, hands it back to Lani, and walks the guests to the door. “I would appreciate it if you could join us for the memorial service on Saturday.”

“Of course, we will be there. Thank you so much for inviting us. Good night.”

“What do you say, kids?” Jasmin looks at them with raised eyebrows.

“Thank you very much,” the sad children comply.

“God bless you. We are indebted to you,” says Jasmin.


When she gets off work at about four o’clock, Lani walks to meet Cliff in front of SuperFoods, and they take the Metrobus from around the corner. A twelve-minute ride drops them off at the golf course entry, and they have a nice walk home on the cart path. The furry gold-dust-storm approaches but slows down, when they see Cliff, and the glorious moment of ‘impact’ doesn’t happen. Ingo knows Cliff, but a close sniffing inspection never hurts. He gets intensely petted by the two humans, before they walk home.

“Hi, we’re home,” says Lani as the two and Ingo get in.

Jim greets them and tells them Pat and Isa are doing homework upstairs.

“May I go up and see Isa?” asks Cliff.

“Sure, go ahead, you know Pat’s room,” Jim says. The room door is cracked open, and when Cliff peaks in, he sees the two at the small table under the window. Pat is sitting on his own feet on the chair—in his usual way— with his back to the door, both feet propped on a chair in his usual way. Isa’s pink backpack hangs off the back of the chair. With Doogie in her lap, Isa writes in a notebook.

“Hi, bro, hi, sis.”

“Hi, Cliff.” Isa doesn’t get up. “See, Doogie likes me, she says, pointing to the bundle of love in her lap.

“Hi, dude, welcome home. Do you have lots of homework?” Pat asks.

“Only what they gave us today. I usually do it that day, or I forget to do it. Where can I wash my hands?”

All cleaned up, Cliff comes down and joins Lani for a snack. She’d quickly made two thick slices of Mozzarella cheese breaded in egg and Italian breadcrumbs—like giant Mozzarella sticks— and served a salad of peeled and sliced cucumbers with tomato slices and scallions.

Before they get a taste of the food, Ingo and Missy show up downstairs.


“Oh, my, I am so sorry, guys. What’s wrong with me? I forgot to feed you.” Lani gets up and serves the two Cockers their exceptional Wisdom Dog Food. She tells Cliff about the ten pounds of food Ingo receives weekly from the Washington DC K-9 Police as a gift for the training help he provided.

“Pat told me something about that, but to tell you the truth I thought he was ... kidding,” says Cliff.

“You mean lying.” Lani smiles.

“Yeah, lying. Sorry about that.”

“Don’t be sorry, I can’t blame you. It’s not a story easy to believe. But Ingo is not a regular dog. He is really gifted. I’ll show you after we eat.” The dogs devour the food, which Lani often improves, wetting it with chicken broth.

“Cliff, I hope you like it. It’s breaded cheese, but if you want a slice of bread, too, let me know. Tonight, when we take you guys home, I am going to send you with a pan of meatloaf ready to be put in the oven.”

“Wow, I love meatloaf. Thank you very much, Miss Lani.”

“I just need the glass pan back, okay?”

Cliff joins Pat and Isa upstairs. Isa is still writing in her notebook, but Cliff sees she is crying.

“Isa, are you okay?” Cliff kneels next to her chair and hugs her. “What are you writing, kid?”

“I am sad, and Patrick said that I should write a letter to dad, with what I would love to tell him if he was here. It makes me cry, but it makes me feel better, too.” Isa embraces Cliff and lets herself cry out loud.

“You know what? I am going to write one, too. Mom asked us if we want to say something at the memorial, but I didn’t think I can.”

“Guys, if you write your letters, I will read them for you at the memorial. What do you say?” Pat is willing to do about anything to help them feel better. “Sit here, Cliff. I finished my homework, I can read on the bed,” says Pat and grabs a textbook.

“You are a good friend, Pat. Not many people would do that. Thank you, buddy.”

A little later, the kids come down and find Lani changed out of her work clothes, enjoying a cup of tea.

Jim and Pat join them in the dining room.

“Are we going to play today? I’m done working. ‘Honey, I’m home,’” says Jim jokingly.

“Are you kids interested at all in golf?” Lani asks their house guests and sees their little faces light up.”

“I’m too young, but Cliff is. He used to go with Dad—” Isa’s eyes fill with tears, and she can’t continue.

Lani hugs her and caresses her hair.

“Oh, sweetie, I am so sorry. I know it’s hard, and you miss him, baby.” Lani hugs her for what seems like a long time.

“We want to go with you if it’s possible. It’s a beautiful afternoon, and we can watch you,” says Cliff.


They take Subi—their red Subaru—to the Clubhouse. After warming up on the range for fifteen minutes, they make a run for the Clubhouse, chased inside by an unexpected rain shower. Pat introduces the two children to Willie, before they decide to return home and make it an afternoon of golf talk.

A wide archway separates the kitchen from the dining room. Aside from the big table for eight, the large room has a sideboard and—in the two, far end corners—round tables next to small but comfortable armchairs. Lani invites the children to sit, have a beverage, and have a talk about, “Everything you ever wanted to know about golf but didn’t know how to ask.”

“I am going to prepare the meatloaves for tonight and, while I do that, I will tell you about the Game.” Lani is putting on her ‘Love the Cook’ apron when Jim appears and says,

“May I join the lecture, Miss Bellamy? On which side do you want me?”

“How do you mean?”

“On the lecturer side, where I can help with the cooking prep, or on the audience side, where I can have fun and a drink? Jim is hoping for the latter.

“The latter. Feel free to help the audience with drinks and snacks and, if you could, with the lecture.”

“Miss Lani, what is the game of golf all about?” asks Isa, who always say what’s on her mind.

“Golf looks like a simple game. People chase a stationary little white ball over the fields with a crooked stick and when they find it, they hit it again. The goal is to put the ball in the cup, using the smallest number of strokes. A golf game consists of eighteen holes. The player—without touching the ball with any part of their body— attempts to put the small golf ball in a cup marked with a flag . Each attempt is called a hole, starts on the teeing ground and ends on the green where the cup is. The short grassy area where it’s the easiest to play is called the ‘fairway.’ A hole can be up to 400 to 500 yards long.”

There is silence in the room, then Isa speaks again.

“But that’s crazy. You can be at it the entire day and never be able to put the darned ball in the cup. Eighteen times? Wow, I got to see this.”

“Imagine what people from another planet would think watching us from the sky. They would be amazed by the hordes of people walking with heavy bags on their backs or in motorized carts following these little balls, hitting them over and over again.”

“It’s the same with ET watching us pick up the poop of our dogs and carrying it for them. They’d be sure the dogs are the bosses,” says Pat laughing.

“Golf is a game of honor,” says Lani. “It’s played without the supervision of a referee or umpire. It relies on the players’ integrity to show consideration for their playing partners and obey the rules.”

Cliff is sitting with Pat, while Jim and Isa are at the other round table. Cliff, who is very sharp, raises his hand like he does in school. He is one of those children who has a mild temperament and a good disposition.

“Yes, Cliff,” says Lani.

“When and where did the game start?”

“Nice question, Cliff.” Lani continues, “The Legend says, it all started back in the fifteenth century—more precisely in 1457. Some bored shepherds in Scotland attempted to hit a pebble over sand dunes and around tracks using a bent stick or club to pass the time. Golf, as a pastime, only started in Great Britain in the seventeenth century. By 1860, the first British Open took place, a tournament that the pros still play today.

“That’s a long time ago,” Isa adds.

“The sport’s popularity grew among the ruling class. For instance, Mary, Queen of Scots, played often. Students carried her clubs and she called them cadets, and that’s where the name caddie comes from. It’s still used today for the person who handles the club bag and walks with the player.”

“Wow, you are a book worm and a nerd, my dear,” says Jim laughing.

“I sure am, an athletic nerd, not many of us around.”

“What about the golf ball?” This question comes from Pat.

When Missy hears the word ball, she shows up and looks around.

“Get me your ball, Missy,” Pat, amused, tells her. The beautiful dog returns in seconds with her favorite sponge ball. Pat throws it for her.

“The first golf balls were leather pouches stuffed with boiled feathers, and they were called a feathery. Later, around 1850, a new golf ball, made of the hardened juice of some South American tree called gutta-percha, replaced the feathery which was expensive and hard to make.” At this point, Lani finishes decorating with sugar-free Ketchup the two glass pans filled with the meat mixture.

“What is the game all about, Miss Lani?” asked Isa. Lani’s face tells her that she is unsure she understands the question, so little Isa continues. “What does it take to play the game well?”

“Well, this is the amazing part of the game, the reason why millions of people, from all over the world—young, old, men, women, children—love and play the game. Golf is not for everybody. It’s a hard game you can never master. You just learn it all your life. Because of that, and because every course and every single shot is unique and different, you can NEVER get bored with it. It’s a unique experience even if you play the same course repeatedly. Each shot lands in a different location. The grass or the soil you hit the ball from is different. The wind and humidity change. If you can’t see the beauty of the challenge in that, you give up soon. But if you do, you are hooked for life.” Lani looks at the clock and says.

“Jim, I have a pan of meatloaf for the kids to take home with them. I’ll put ours in the oven, and I think it’s time to take them home.”

“Good idea, I’ll take the car out. Please prepare the pan for the trip.”

“Cliff, tell Jasmin to put it in the oven uncovered for one hour and fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. You guys can have some potato chips and a little salad with it. You’ll also have some leftovers, so you can take a slice with you to school. I happen to love it cold the next day with mustard. It’s delicious.”

“I’ll go with Dad to take them home.”

“Good night, guys, and I’ll see you tomorrow, Cliff. Same thing, okay?”

“Miss Lani, maybe we can do that every second day. I can work longer hours if I don’t come with you and at the end of the day they give me food to bring home—”

“Now, that’s a great idea,” Jim stops him. “Then every second day, when we take Isa home, we stop and pick you up at the store.”

“Yeah, that’s so cool, thank you.”

“Drive safely. Good night.” Lani’s wet eyes shine in the dusk light, and she wipes away a tear.


When Pat and Jim return, the table is set, and Lani is reading while waiting for them.

“Hi, babe. We’re back. Guess what Pat told me. He had Isa and Cliff write letters to their dad, and Pat is going to read them for the kids at the memorial service.”

“Good for you, Pat. How did you come up with that, sweetie?” Lani finds this remarkable. “Is this going to be okay with Jasmin?”

“Cliff told me their mom asked them if they can say a few words, but we agreed on this compromise. Cliff doesn’t think he’ll be able to do it.”

“Pat, when and where is the service?

“On Saturday, at 4 pm at the Funeral Home in the Square.”


The best thing about the small town of Broad Oaks is that it lies outside of Washington D.C. yet is close enough to have access to all the conveniences of such a big town. The otherwise boring town has a remarkable Plaza with many elegant shops, lots of landscaping with spectacular plants, and a central Kiosk for band concerts.

The Queenans arrive shortly before four in the afternoon at the funeral home. Most of the people are dressed up, and the flowers and the general atmosphere are very dignified.

The simple elegance of the funeral home’s chapel and the crowd look ideally suited.

After the Holleys arrive, everybody enters the chapel. Jasmin, dressed in black, seems to be leaning on Cliff’s arm. She looks thinner than usual and drawn in the face. She is a petite woman, who looks like she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Cliff is a head taller than his mom. Appearing in public with his mom hanging on to his arm makes it clear he is ‘the man of the house’ now. Isa is holding her mom’s other hand and wears a simple white dress with a black velvet belt and black velvet bow in her hair.

Jasmin sees the Queenans and asks her brother to seat them in the front, behind the family. Everybody sits and the memorial service starts.

In the front, there is a closed casket, flowers, and lit candles.

Father Murphy delivers the homily, but most of the message is lost on the participants, overwhelmed by the finality of the moment.

“...the body is just a vessel for the soul,” says the priest. “...and the vessel is not needed for this journey to the Heavens.”

Pat has never been to a funeral before. He doesn’t feel at ease, and he is not sure anymore if he can stand up in front of all these people and read his friends’ last message to their dad. He starts feeling hot and thirsty.

Cliff turns back to tell Pat he is next. Isa turns too. Seeing the look of pain on their faces, Pat—his heart in his mouth and butterflies in his stomach—gets the two letters out of his pocket and swallows nervously. Pat hears his name called to the front of the room and finds himself in bright light, holding on with both hands to the lectern and can’t see anything in the darker room. He hears his voice come through the public address system.

“Isa’s letter to her dad. Dad, you were the best father I think anyone could ask for—Pat’s voice is trembling but stabilizes soon. Isa’s letter ends with, I love you, Dad, and I promise you I will be a good girl. Rest in Peace.

Isa is crying, and Jasmin hugs her and holds the little head on her shoulder.

Pat folds the paper and takes the other one out of his pocket.

“Cliff’s letter to his dad.” Dad, with deep sadness, I’m writing down this message for you. I wish you were here so I could thank you for all you have taught me, for the love you gave me. Dad, I want you to know that I will take care of Mom and Isa, and I will make you proud. I am sorry, Dad, that you didn’t get to see many of your dreams come true, but I’ll work toward them, in your honor. I love you, Dad.

Now Cliff is crying, too, and Pat walks straight out of the chapel for a bit of air.

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