Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Can See the Forest

It's no revelation that we are bombarded daily with information from a myriad of sources--print, electronic, digital, cellular, gossip--and yes, I know some of that is redundant. Nevertheless, in this world of all news/information all the time, often we stumble into the theater of the absurd. As an example, did we really need to have live courtroom coverage of the battle over what to do with the expired carcass of Anna Nicole Smith? But when the news cycle is 25 hours a day, eight days a week (the Beatles were onto something well before their time), sometimes 'they' just make it up.

If we take all of that, swirl it around, then conflate it with the daily overdose of apochryphal dissemblage pouring from the Congressional sewers in the guise of paternalistic pap, it's well nigh impossible to focus. We get myopic, trying to fell the individual 'trees' that stand in the way of our rushing forth only to be strafed by even more amplified surround sound of didactic drivel. Counterintuitively we do this rather than taking the occasional hiatus to appreciate the wonder of the verdant forest through which we roam like Hansel and Gretel, trying to find our way home.

Tonight I had the privilege of attending a private reception honoring a friend of mine, Tommy O'Toole, for the decades-long effort he has poured into the game of golf. Yes, he does play the game, but by his own admission not as well as he'd like. He was, however, instrumental in the organization of the Missouri Amateur Golf Association years ago which ultimately became a springboard to the estimable position on the five-member Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association. He has traveled extensively over the years as a well-respected rules official and for other roles at U.S. Open Championships and many other USGA-sanctioned tournaments. Oh, and he's built a successful law practice 'on the side'.

Tommy sacrificed a lot for all of this, but his family always came first--always. And it wasn't always easy. His personal life suffered as did his health a few times. He had little time to devote to himself, but one thing he didn't give up, wouldn't allow it. He never lost sight of the things most important to him after family. His friends. And they are legion. In the past year, Tommy finally left his bachelor days behind and got married. He thinks he picked her. He didn't. No man ever does. We get picked. Our wives let us believe we're in control. We aren't. When Tommy took the plunge, he got a twofer--a son in the bargain, one who badly needed a dad and without any practice, Tommy slid into the role as easy as making a two-foot gimme. It's a tender scene to see them together, to see how gentle Tommy can be. Just as moving is listening to his friends talk about him, them.

I'm grateful I took time out to see the forest tonight, that I got to see Tommy with his new family, his mom and dad and so many people whose lives he's touched. He's gruff sometimes, blunt always and suffers fools madly, but I've not met anyone with a bigger heart. Tommy has been my friend sinced I moved to St. Louis, 29 years and counting. I've never kept ledgers with friends, never offered a hand with the expectation of something in return. I hope, though, that I've been as good of a friend to Tommy as he's been to me. Here's to you, TOT.

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