Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Memories Slip, but Golf is Forever (part II)

When one of her 10-footers rolled into the hole, Joan Brown, 82, looked up with bemused surprise. "Oh," she said, "such perseverance."
For Joan Brown, an elegant, 82-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer, the chance to hold a club and putt for a while is like a powerful mood-altering drug.
Ms. Brown's son, Steven, moved her to Silverado last year because she kept wandering away from the assisted-living facilities where she had been staying. She needed a place where the staff would monitor her 24 hours a day. Last Wednesday morning, terror gripped Ms. Brown at the thought of heading out for an afternoon of golf. "I can't do that," she said, shaking her head and growing agitated. "I've never played golf before. ... No, I can't do that at all." Like Mr. Johnston, she wanted to be left alone.
But just after noon, as Ms. Brown and her son began tapping balls toward their targets on the putting green at Deep Cliff, she spoke of how she had learned to play as a child in Calgary, Canada. Her father, a Scot, was a committed golfer, she said. She recalled taking lessons from a local pro and talked about the weekly ladies rounds she played. "I could always hit the ball long." she said.
Noticing a few small dogs on a leash nearby, she remarked that they weren't allowed on the golf course, and that the managers probably weren't too happy about them being there. When one of her 10-footers rolled into the hole, she looked up with bemused surprise and batted her blue eyes. "Oh," she said, "such perseverance."
Glenn Peterman, 89, had spent most of the morning at Silverado nearly immobile on a park bench, his watery right eye tearing uncontrollably. Mr. Peterman, another former golfer, uses a walker and has trouble standing up. He delivers one-word answers -- mostly "yes" -- to most questions. Asked about his family, Mr. Peterman gazed upward like an 8-year-old who's just been handed a calculus problem.
At Deep Cliff, Mr. Peterman shunned a golf cart for a walk down a steep path to the practice area. With the help of a caregiver, he stood over a ball, used his club for a moment of support, then began stroking the ball toward the hole, silently negotiating the required speed and distance with each successive shot. If one shot went too hard, his next swing would be softer, and vice versa. There was even the hint of a smile when the occasional putt dropped in. His right eye was tear-free.
After a few minutes, Mr. Peterman grew tired and sat on a nearby bench.
He used to play a lot of golf, he said. "I played with my children," he said, "Larry and Mike."