On 21st January 2020 my Dad died in Limerick. That’s a perfectly normal English sentence. Of course, there’s a lot more to that story.
Dad had been sick since early to mid January that year, he didn’t really take great of himself but he’s rarely been in hospital for any length of time. The Fecker was as strong as an Ox but he was on the way out – early 80s and in the hospital bed he wasn’t the larger than life character than I remembered as a kid. You look up to your Dad, physically for sure as Patrick C Kennedy was a tall man but unfortunately I don’t always look up to him. He wasn’t a good Father but your Dad is your Dad and he always had our best interests at heart.
He kept defying the Doctors so I made the decision to go to the PGA Show (really Big Shoe!) in Orlando, if it wasn’t my own company I would have stayed at home. Day 1 in Florida I set off for Streamsong with James Sheehy, the Caddy Guy from Ballyduff/Ballybunion GC, after arriving the previous night and catching up with my good buddy Paddy Aiken (thanks Paddy, more than you know) in Orlando along with most of the Irish crew. God help me if I was travelling on my own.
A great day at Streamsong, is there ever a bad day there?? Wonderful welcome, nice lunch (the news still encouraging from home, would the Auld Lad pull through??) and then out onto the course. It’s easy to switch off as a golfer when you’re playing, you get fixated on hitting the shots and of course chatting on the course with your playing partners – try and stop me doing that!! 17 decent holes in and I’m in the middle of the 18th Fairway facing a 5-wood approach in. Nutted it to within 4 feet and held the putt for Eagle, best shot of my life. Less than 24 hours later, Dad would be gone.
It’s a 2 hour plus drive back to Orlando from Streamsong so we lingered for a quick drink (non-alcoholic beer for me as the driver) and then we were on our way, me with my Eagle ball marker in my pocket forever with the story ready of “there’s a good story about this marker…” Dinner at the Ravenous Pig in Winter Park was wonderful before arriving back at the hotel. Bed straight away, a long day.
The next day it was the Watson Course at the Reunion Resort with Patrick Aiken and 2 Guests, their names escape me now. Nice start but a cold morning, swinging well and scoring well too. Most of the round is a blur now but it shot into focus right before I teed off on 17. I saw a missed call from Wife, Catriona, so I called her back at the back of the tee box – “Your Dad’s gone, I’m so sorry Tom”, I think they were her words but I can’t remember anymore. Holding it together out there in the middle of Florida was probably my main aim as the wind was well and truly taken out of my sails. Not a lot of people get told while on the golf course and a few thousand miles from home that your Dad has just died, wasn’t easy but my thoughts were with my brother Alex who was in the room with Dad at the time and my dear daughter Lucy, 3 months old, who was sick in hospital. I was the lucky one, on the golf course.
Finishing up on 17 & 18 wasn’t easy but I did need some time to just let it all sink in, I still had the drive back with Paddy to the hotel and then the call to my marvellous Mum back home – that was not easy. Sitting in the car park of the hotel talking to my Mum after Dad had just died was probably the loneliest experience of my life and then sitting at the bar with Paddy telling him what I’d know from the 17th Tee was really tough, I completely broke down – not exactly what the barman was expecting!
That evening in Orlando trying to reschedule my flight was tough but thankfully the Aer Lingus staff were great. The rest of that night I was in the company of friends and those who acted as such will never be forgotten.
Next morning I had golf scheduled with Jerry Wisler at Isleworth. Another unusually cool morning greeting me as I went down to breakfast, numb and raw from the previous day. What to do? I had a day left in Orlando so rather than sit on my bed scrolling through my phone I thought it best to do something, it entailed early morning golf and afternoon meetings. It was a much needed experience at Isleworth, I would like to return when not playing this picture perfect Course after a parent has died but it was memorable all the same. My playing partners didn’t know what I had been through the previous day & night and thankfully I had the golf cart to myself to dwell on things as the rounds progressed. Getting back into my rental car before heading back to the hotel and then the PGA Show my thoughts turned to Dad & Lucy – I hope both were okay with their own struggles.
Morning meetings over the next day I set off for the Airport and the trip home, not exactly knowing what to expect. An early arrival home into Shannon is great but the jet lag didn’t exactly make for an easy evening in Limerick at the Removal.
Lucy had just come back from hospital and Catriona had experienced an awful week, never mind her at times foot-in-mouth Father-in-Law dying! It was an emotional homecoming to say the least as we prepared for the next couple of days.
Saying farewell to Dad seemed the easiest part. It’s a process, if you’ve been to a funeral you know what’s coming – of course not until you have got to put together a Eulogy. I said things as they were, I never thought you should sugar coat your thoughts on the dead just because they’re gone, even if it’s your Father.
Stealing a line from Jose-Maria Olazabal – “all men die, but not all men live”! Dad lived before he died, that’s the best tribute I can pay to him.
Miss you Dad. I return to the scene next month in Orlando.