I’m terrible at mornings. As long as I can remember (and according to my mother, even when I was a baby) I was a nite owl who preferred to go to sleep at 2, and wake up at 10. For whatever reason, that’s the way I’m wired.
When my kids were little and the whole time they were in school, Anne and I took turns getting them to school, which mandated that I diverge from the sleep schedule I’d used successfully for almost my entire life (with brief breaks from routine when I was working on a production).
I realize how privileged I am to basically set my own schedule now, and I’m very grateful that, for the most part, I can sleep when my body wants to, without having The Man tell me when I have to set an alarm.
But last night, my son, Ryan, asked me if he could take me out for bad golf this morning, since it was father’s day. “You’re an incredible father, and I want to do something cool with you,” he said. “But I’m not going to play golf in the middle of the day, when it’s 100°.”
“So come over at 830, and we’ll leave then,” I said.
I went to sleep “early” last night, at about midnight. Then I got to have nightmares all night, so when I woke up 7 hours and 43 minutes after I finally fell asleep, I was feeling, as they say, like ass.
Still, I coffee’d myself up, put on my magnificently obnoxious golf trousers (which I actually use for curling), and Ryan and I headed to the golf course. We texted Nolan, but without response, decided that he was probably choosing to sleep in like a normal person, and would probably join us for lunch.
We got to the golf course — the Los Feliz Par 3 — just as it was really filling up. We rented two 9 irons and putters, and bought two sleeves of golf balls.
“You sure you’re going to need six golf balls for the two of you?” The starter asked us.
“We’re really bad at golf,” I said. “This may not be enough.”
“Suit yourself,” he said, which I think is a thing that only Boomers say when they’re working as the starter at a Par 3 golf course and a couple of dorks show up in obnoxious golf gear, declaring how bad they are at the game.
We headed to the first tee. The course was a little backed up, but neither of us was in a hurry, and the whole point of the thing was to spend the time together, so we enjoyed the view, the birds, the squirrels, and the fact that we had not yet lost any of our golf balls.
It was my turn to step up to the tee. I put my ball on the mat, and addressed it, which is golf-talk for preparing to swing the club.
I shuffled my feet, relaxed my shoulders, exhaled, and swung the club. There was the smack of the club against the mat, the crack of the club against the ball, and a few seconds later, the thunk of the ball against a tree. It landed behind that tree, in some thick grass.
“I’ve left myself in good position,” I said.
“Nice work,” Ryan agreed.
He sliced his first shot onto the 18th green. After he retrieved it, he put it back on the tee, whacked the hell out of it, and we both watched in amazement as it spun along the grass for about 85 of the 92 yards to the hole.
“I see the Scottish method is working out for you,” I said.
“Thank you,” he said. We walked to our balls, and took our second shots. Mine went over the green, rolled up a small embankment, then back down that same embankment back onto the green.
“That’s one green in regulation out of one,” I said.
“Truly a masterful stroke,” he said.
“Truly,” I replied. We were very fancy, as the situation clearly demanded it.
Ryan hit his second shot up onto the green. He four-putted, I three-putted, and we walked up to the second tee.
“We’re really bad at this,” I said.
“Spectacularly bad at this,” Ryan agreed.
On my next tee shot, I lost my ball into the LA River. Ryan’s hit a tree and bounced into the center of the fairway. My mulligan tried its best to go into the river, but got caught by some thick bushes. My third shot went mostly straight, ending short of the green.
“I can’t believe nobody sponsors us,” I said, as we walked down toward the green.
I scored a seven on the hole. Ryan scored a five. And so it went for the rest of the round. I eventually lost all my balls, and finished with a ball that I found in the rough, which none of the other golfers wanted to claim.
Ryan made par on one hole, which was the required condition we had decided upon for victory. On that same hole, I recorded my score as a frowny face. We will never speak of it again.
At the end of the round, we tallied our score. Ryan was the victor with 45 strokes. I was in second place with fifty sad faces.
Around this time, Nolan got in touch, and we met up at Golden Road for brunch. After our food arrived, I told them, “I don’t care about holidays, and I really don’t care about made-up holidays like Father’s Day … but it means a lot to me that you wanted to spend this time with me today. I understood why I didn’t get to when you were kids, and I respected that, but it makes me really, really happy that you both wanted to do this today.”
“I don’t care about holidays, either,” Ryan said, “but this is a great excuse to spend time together, and spending time together is really what’s important to me.”
“Yeah,” Nolan said, “and that’s why it’s bullshit that you didn’t wake me up to go with you this morning!”
“Awww, man,” I said, “we both thought you wanted to sleep in!”
“It’s okay,” he said. “This is still cool.”
“I love you guys,” I said.
Being a parent is never easy — if it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong — but it’s especially difficult to be a step-parent, especially when a bioparent is a jerk. But it’s so worth all the pain and hurt and frustration when the day comes that you realize that they may not carry your DNA, but you’ve raised them so well, they are your children in every way that actually matters.
Happy Father’s Day, dads, and a very special secret handshake to my fellow step-parents.