Nick Cannell, Missi’s dad, is now 99. Yesterday, Kristi, Josh, Taylor, Miss, her brother Jim, and sisters Sue & Lynee celebrated his birthday (August 11, 1919). He’s survived the Battle of The Bulge (WWII), built a Frozen pie business (first ever), and been one of the most generous men along the way. He’s seen a lot.
Yesterday, I was waiting for him at the Muirfield valet stand when his son Jim pulled up to drop off the birthday boy. I had a golf cart with my clubs ready to go. As Nick got out of their car with some much needed help from his son, I told him to grab his cane and get in the golf cart instead. “We’re just going to hit a few putts on the practice green while your kids sit on the porch, have a glass of wine, and watch. Come on, it’ll be fun.” He gave me a puzzled but hopeful look and asked me if I thought he could do it. You see, Nick hadn’t held a golf club for a few years now. Last year we tried to pull this off and he flat refused. He wasn’t sure he could stand up on the green.
“We’re doing this,” I told him and helped him into the cart. He’s had a rough year with lots of physical setbacks and we wanted this birthday to be one to remember. We had no idea.
A few minutes later we were on the practice green and his signature jab stroke was right back like he never left it. He smiled as he hit the first putt and almost made it from ten feet away. Again and again he stroked the ball toward that little hole. After about the tenth or eleventh try he made that ten footer and we all erupted with applause. He turned to me with a child like grin – “Do you think I could hit a chip?” My heart filled just a little bit more and I squeezed hard to maintain my emotional status quo. “Of course, I blurted out as I ran back to the cart and grabbed the pitching wedge. Nick hit chip after chip after chip. He was wobbling a bit but you could see his concentration and focus. He was not going down. After five good minutes of chipping, I asked him if he wanted to swing away and see if he could hit it over the practice green. He looked at me like I had offered him one of his big three wishes.
“Do you think I can do it?” He asked with a little trepidation. I smiled and told him to choke up on the club a little, it will steady your balance. He agreed, smiled and took a few practice swings. Then, he hit the thing. It didn’t go far but he loved it. Again and again and again he swung away. Miss and Jim came down to make some video’s, while Lynee, Sue, and Tay enjoyed the view from the porch. After another good chip, I looked Nick in the eye and asked him if he would like to go the first tee and tee one up. “You mean hit one with a full swing with a wooden club? Do you think I can do it?” He hardly took a breath between sentences, he was beyond excited. He grabbed my arm with one hand and his cane with another, we were doing this thing.
The first few drives didn’t get airborne and he was clearly feeling frustrated. I tried a few tips. Nothing happened. Still no air. He was doing it though and I was so happy to see him having fun. By now, Josh and Kristi arrrived and he wasn’t about to give up. Jim (doesn’t play golf) told me to tee it up a half inch higher. I thought this is gonna make him completely miss the thing, but said nothing and adjusted the ball high up on the tee. The next swing?
He hit it out of sight. Not three hundred yards, out of sight. Not two hundred. Not one hundred. It did not matter. He hit it out of sight. It felt like a Tiger roar as all his kids roared their approval. As I ran down the first hole picking up his drive after drive after drive, I had to really work to fight off the tears. Dinner was gonna be an hour late, he usually can’t stand that. He was loving it tonight. You see, friend, one of Nick’s “love to’s” is playing the game of golf. He hasn’t been able to play a round for a long time and he misses it. Last evening he played again. He was a kid again. We could all see it in his tiring eyes. Last night was a Kairos moment for Nick, Jim, Lynee, Sue, Miss, me, Josh, Kristi, and Taylor. We were missing his son Steve and his wife Susan. We were missing Jordan and Andrew. We were missing tons of grandkids and great grandkids. We made the most of the moment. This morning, Jim is editing the slow motion video he took of Nick’s first drive in the 99 and above championship at MVGC. He won it, btw, with a score of ONE.
You will forget many dinners, friend. You will forget many Monday’s. Do not let life turn into nothing but a steady stream of Wednesday’s. The ones you love will not always be beside you. Make some moments, some Kairos moments alongside your Nickies. Sometimes you may have to push them out of their comfort zone. As we grow older, a lot of times we grow even more afraid, not less. Give some courage. Take some risks. Life is a gift. Don’t forget it’s in the little things that we live it.
Thanks, family, for making last night more than just another meal (nothing wrong with that, btw). Thanks for the Kairos. Thanks Muirfield for letting us break a few rules. Thanks fellow members for giving Nick that standing ovation. Last night was filled with love. FM, baby…