The Ultimate Gentleman

I’m back from my short trip to Florida. It was a very short trip because I promised Boo I’d be back by this morning to chaperone her class trip to the zoo. I wouldn’t have missed her trip to the zoo for anything…..I was right up there in the front with all the kids “oohing” and “ahhing” over the awesome little owl pellets with little mice skeletons in them too….)

I brought home this photo that my mom had in one of the cabinets. It was taken around 2002.  It’s a photo of my dad, Diesel and I. My dad would ride Diesel around the neighborhood in his beach cruiser basket introducing him as his “granddog.”  And my mom would make me drink freshly squeezed orange juice:

 

The reason I was in Florida was because my dad was being inducted into the Quail Ridge Sports Hall of Fame.  The honor of the induction was presented to my mother:

My mom did an amazing job during her speech…..she reduced the room to tears multiple times. She ended with the idea that maybe my dad had a premonition about the USGA deciding to ban the long putter starting in 2016. My dad loved the long putter. We even buried him with his long putter.  She joked that if my dad were here…. there would be no shortage of his new advice on reintroducing the short putter to the game….. to all those people he had convinced to switch to the long putter in the last 10 years…..

She was introduced by Kevin Hammer, a friend of my dad’s who was with him when he died.  Kevin read a list of things he had copied down from my dad’s office…..notes that my dad had hung around as reminders to himself….on the lamp, on the wall, on the door:

have a great attitude

believe in yourself

play your own game

play one shot at a time

play with patience

commit to every shot

keep the game simple

play with no expectation

play with trust

never ever give up

 

*****

During her speech my mom mentioned about how I was diagnosed with cancer just a few months after dad passed away. On the ride home, giggling, I told my sister:

“haha…..Mom called me the miracle child…..”

She replied:

“Yeah, yeah….I know……and that makes me the test tube baby…..”

And in almost perfect unison we both chimed in (only because my brother wasn’t there to do it for us):

“….and the experiment failed.”

 

The other inductee that night was Ches Riddle. My dad would have been so proud to have been inducted with him. After my mom’s speech, the whole room was in tears…..and then Mr. Riddle’s speech lefts us all in stitches. He told a story about how he once bought a hot air balloon and took his wife up with him…..but he had a hard time getting the balloon to come back down to earth because of all of his wife’s hot air…..you had to be there.  His wife moved over a foot when he sat back down. It was cute…..and it made my mom laugh harder than I’ve seen her laugh in a long time. So I’m thankful for that.

 

From the Charlotte Observer last Tuesday:

Golf’s Ultimate Gentleman.

I love that nickname.

It makes me so proud.

Dad was truly a gentle man.

 

 

*****

Totally random, but as I’m writing this post Boo just asked the following questions…..so I had to document them somewhere and this seems like a great place….you don’t mind, right?

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I Will Read the Owner’s Manual Completely

This is a follow up to the post I wrote about the contract my dad wrote for my underage drinking. This was a contract signed between my parents and I in 1993 when I got my license and a new car. I love that it was amended after 2 speeding tickets (they never revoked privileges for those…..but I guess a third would have been too much).

A few notes:

1. A few contracts I signed with my parents said “CONFIDENTIAL” on the top…..this one was not marked, so I’m assuming it’s okay to post.

2. I never had any desire to carpool other people’s pets around. I don’t know why that was such a concern.

3. The cell phone my dad installed in the car for me was AWESOME…..until he got the first bill and it indicated that at 2:30am I was making calls from a field party in Union County.

4. Once during college I left my sunroof open overnight during a rainstorm (probably the same night I got caught drinking).  It soaked the entire interior of the Landcruiser and resulted in the seats dry rotting. I wonder if that would be considered a violation.

5. I did use a music CD in the car for the first year, I didn’t think that fell under “radio” technically.

6. It would have been awesome if this contract included attending church for $20…..I still lived at home and went to church regardless of whether or not I wanted to.

 

Teenager contract via liblueboo.comClick “read more” to see the rest of the post!

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Live the life you’ve dreamed.

The Golf Channel and WCC gave my family a gift tonight….footage and interviews of my father in the last days of his life. Watching it was a wave of emotions, but the biggest takeaway was that he was extremely happy in those last days and in his element. I felt like he was looking straight at me through the screen a few times with his signature grin saying: It’s okay. Everything is how it’s supposed to be.

(it will re-air on Thursday 12/29 at 2:00pEST)

Norman Swenson, the true champion of the game, defined all that is great about golf: a gentlemen, a competitor, a friend, grace and victory in defeat. He brought people together with a smile, a laugh and a southern accent that made the experience better for everybody.

 

 

They showed a clip of Dad showing a smiley face on the top of one of his tees…..Boo says he did that for her. I think he did too.

 

 

In another clip the camera zooms in from the side….it’s a tee from my sister’s wedding that he took all the way over the Korea.

Live the life you’ve dreamed.


 

Life is short. You never know when your last day will be.

Live your life fully…and live it full of joy.

Nothing else really matters.

 

Photobucket

Tribute on the Golf Channel

I’ve shared so much of the journey of the days following my father’s death this year that I wanted to share this in case any of you might want to watch it.  You’ve all been so supportive and encouraging to us and I’m so appreciative. The Golf Channel is airing the World Club Championship highlights tomorrow (12/8) at 4:30 (eastern). It was the last tournament my dad played in and he passed away on the flight back. There will be a tribute to my dad in the programming. I’m nervous, excited, sad, thankful and hesitant all at the same time. I’ll be recording it so we can watch it together as a family tomorrow night.

If you happen to miss it tomorrow it will re-air on Thursday 12/29 at 2:00p (eastern).

 

A Love Story

It’s been two weeks since my father passed away.

It’s hard going through someone else’s possessions when they are gone…..it makes you think about your own life and what you value.  My dad was meticulous and left notes about everything. We found “get dance lessons with Shelley” (my mom) on his to-do list along with countless other things that touched our hearts. He truly valued what was important.

Today is my parent’s 38th wedding anniversary……we found these photos on my dad’s computer of their honeymoon and first years together. My brother, sister and I oohed and ahhed over each one. My sister and I would comment on my mother’s clothes and she would chime in every once in a while “oh, I made that!

 

My parents went to the Outer Banks in N.C. and Williamsburg for their honeymoon in 1973. They took us kids on a full honeymoon tour 18 years ago for their 20th anniversary and we visited each….and….every….place.

 

Air conditioning and color TV!


 

I’m wondering if they coordinated these outfits:

 

My parents truly loved each other unconditionally.

You can tell that my father adored my mother just by the photos he took of her….and you can tell my mother adored him too by they way she looked back into the camera :)

 

 

My parents have always been so playful and funny…..this series of photos made me realize they’ve always been that way :)

 

I can hear my dad now: “Shelley, take a picture of me feeding this Frito to a seagull. Then I’ll get a picture of you feeding a Frito to them.”

 

They are so cute I can’t even stand it:

 

And today is my sweetheart’s birthday too! We celebrated with dear friends last weekend…..a “stay-cation” at La Quinta Resort.

Happy Birthday Mr. LBB!

 

 

One last note: the camera used to take all those honeymoon photos? We still have it.  Here’s Boo using “Grandpa’s” camera to take some photos of Diesel this last weekend:

 

 

*****

 

photo source: quote book

Choose Joy

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the outpouring of condolences last week while I was away for my father’s funeral. It will take me a while to respond to everyone but I’m working on it.  I wanted to share the last week with you because it was so not what I ever expected it to be…..it is always more than anyone wants to know but it’s how I remember.  A special thank you to my friend Janice who took photos from this last week.

Our week started off with the kind of sadness and grief that makes you physically ill. One of the hardest parts of the whole trip was the night we went through all of my father’s luggage as my mother looked on. It was so painful to pull out each item he had taken on the trip….we analyzed how it was packed, we had excitement at the recognition of a favorite vest or sweater, and we were devastated to unpack the last outfit he wore. We passed things around, smelled his shirts to see if his smell lingered, looked at all the souvenirs he had brought back …..everything in threes…..he always brought back three of everything for my brother, sister and I to share one day. My sister pulled out a pair of his golf pants…..his pockets were still full of golf tees, phone numbers from new friends, change…….and a little metal heart trinket that my mother had given him months ago inscribed “with god, all things are possible”. We cried as we realized he was thinking of my mother as he put that in his pocket each day in Korea……what a gift to discover that he had packed it in the first place for such a long trip.

We went up to my parents’ mountain house for a night. My father had moved up there 2 weeks ago before leaving for Korea and my mother was going to follow this last Monday with the rest of their things. As soon as we got there my mother opened the sliding glass doors on the porch that overlooks the 1st hole of the Linville Ridge and we began going through my father’s things so we could bring them all down for his service.

I hope this doesn’t freak anyone out but I think a turning point in our grief and sadness came when Boo made it clear that my dad was with us. We were so busy and Boo started yelling to the room:

Boo: Talk to Norman, Grandma!
Perry (my sister): What did you say about Norman?
Boo: Talk to Norman!
Perry: What do you mean “talk to Norman”? Where is he?

Boo pointed outside to the porch where there was a strong breeze stirring.
My mother and sister just looked at each other with shock. I walked out of the office and into the den…..

Me: What are you talking about?
Boo: Grandpa wants Grandma to talk to him….out on the porch.

(Let me just note here that we never refer to my dad as “Norman” around Boo….it’s always “Dad” or “Grandpa”…….so after that we just knew that my dad was there with us.)

Obviously he wasn’t there physically…..but Boo wanted us to talk to him. Children are closer to God right?

That night we all stayed up until about 1am in my mother’s bed telling stories and giggling. It felt really good and I know my dad would have been so happy. The next few days we spent collecting all of my dad’s golf memorabilia and our favorite photos. We wanted his visitation to be a celebration of his life…..to share what a full life he had lived. My brother set up a website to try and collect some stories from his friends (www.normanswenson.com) and the comments and reflections have just filled our hearts more than anyone will ever know. We read and reread them over and over and over again.  One comment was from a man that had just met him in line at the airport getting on the plane just hours before he died…..I cry every time I read it because I can just picture my dad starting up a conversation:

I had the privilege of meeting a very nice man as we were boarding a plane at the Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea. I let him get in front of me so he could be with some of his friends he was apparently traveling with. We struck up a conversation when he told me where he was from. I knew he was my kinda’ man when he said, “where are y’all from?”. I knew he was from my area and knew he had to be a good man. On the plane, this man and his friend were seperated from the other folks in his group (who I happened to be sitting with). I was aware of something terribly going wrong but had no idea the nice man I had met in line at the airport was having trouble. I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn it was Norman Swenson. My thoughts and prayers are with both Norman and his family. I can’t explain why or how a man I only met for a few moments touched me the way he did. It must be something about him that his close family and friends already know. God Bless you all.

My dad loved meeting new people and was genuinely interested in everything they had to say.

All week we reflected on how lucky we were to have had such an amazing father and how he led us to have such full lives already…..we spent an entire day writing his obituary and picking out the perfect photo.

 

The Viewing

It might sound strange to some of you, but I was so excited about the viewing. We knew so many of his friends would be there and we wanted to focus to be my dad and memories with him. We filled the hall with his photos, golf clubs, hats, and other memorabilia. We joked that it was the “Norman Swenson Museum.”

We set up a table with his green Pine Valley jacket, shoes, and trophies.

We displayed a case with ACC rings, medals and even a scorecard he’d kept from a round he played with Arnold Palmer.

 

Mementos from past tournaments:

 

My brother, sister and I enlarged over 90 photos and articles to 8×10 size to line the hall with our favorite pictures of our dad. The church said they’d never seen anything like it for a funeral. We’d even enlarged “love” telegrams my father had sent my mother years ago and the checks he’d kept from their first date and when he bought her engagement ring.

The whole family spent the entire night prior to the viewing laughing and reflecting on the funny things my dad said over and over to people. We typed them up and filled a bowl with slips of paper with “Normisms” that visitors could grab as his last advice to them:

The Funeral

My mother insisted on speaking at the funeral. She was a pillar of strength for everyone. She told how he always called her “sweetheart” and recently they had been swimming one night in their pool in Florida listening to their favorite ballad “Time to Say Goodbye” and she had a feeling it might be their last swim together.

My dad’s friends Tom and Kevin gave reflections. Tom told of my father’s faith and shared a hilarious email that my dad had written to one of their friends. Kevin shared how happy my dad had been the week before in Korea and how he was so endearing to the caddies and kept them laughing. All three of us kids spoke too. When my sister finished speaking she held up 2 airplane sick bags that my dad had written a long list of potential job contacts on for her….and told everyone that if they were “lucky (or unlucky) enough” to have been included on the list, they would be getting a call from her soon. My dad would have loved that.

We buried him in his Pine Valley tie, with his long putter, his Bushnell range finder, countless golf balls, a cell phone, camera and many notes. A bagpiper played as he was taken to his final resting place.

I was the last of our family and friends to speak at my father’s funeral:

There was one common thread in all the stories and condolences my family received in the past week:
My dad was always happy.
He was always whistling.
He always had a grin on his face.
He was always teasing and making light of something.

While looking through his office for items to bring down for the service I found a devotional page on top of his papers that he’d torn out……it was titled “Choose Joy.”
That’s my dad in a nutshell……he had an overwhelming zest for life and he chose joy every morning he woke up.
Nothing bad or regrettable ever happened to him….it was all just part of living life.

He spent 64 years preparing for this day.
He prepared his wife and kids as well as he could.
He never left anything unsaid.
He told us he loved us every day.
He gave us more advice and direction than any of us will ever need.
He created an example we want to follow.
He created a network of wonderful, loyal friends that will keep his memory alive.
He treasured each and every one of you and he told story after story of your adventures.
He wouldn’t want us to be sad.
He would want us to tell all his stories.
His life was short but it was full.

One last thing…..we’re pretty sure that he started his bucket list when he was 5 years old and he came pretty darn close to ticking everything off.

I think he would want me to tell you:
“he who dies with the most stories wins……so you better get to work.”

 

Boo at her “old Grandpa’s” final resting place…..the “new Grandpa” is in heaven.

Amazingly, we laughed and smiled more than we cried this past week. It gets easier and then harder. I’m at peace that it was his time. I miss him more than ever but it’s always hardest for those of us left behind. I know if he had the choice he wouldn’t come back…..I’m know the other side is too wonderful…..he’ll just wait patiently for us.  I’m not sure how the next few weeks will be. I’ll worry about my mother the most….but I know she’s the strongest of all of us. My father traveled a lot so it feels like he’s just on a long trip and maybe he’ll walk back through the door one day. It was amazing to see all his “lists” he kept and see what he was thinking about and planning. I think that was a gift from him to friends and family. It was really hard going through some of his things and seeing what he held onto…..and realizing that it’s all just stuff. When we got home tonight from the airport I viewed my belongings a little differently…..I feel like purging every little thing I’ve ever held onto that doesn’t have any value…..and writing a note to store with the things I do decide to keep on why they are important to me. There are things my father kept that we will never know why he kept them. It’s just another reminder that we can’t take anything with us when we are gone.

This is one of my favorite photos of my father. It’s his “farewell” wave.

And then in the midst of all the candid photographs taken at the World Club Championship last week….there is this one of my father….in the same pose. It’s so typical that he would pull a photographer away from his job to have him take a photo like this….makes me laugh that he’s so predictable. He looks so happy…..just a little tired. He told Kevin this would be his last trip to Korea. It makes me wonder if he knew something we didn’t.

Photo Credit Brian Morgan

 

Before we left Charlotte today, my mother gave me a copy of “Heaven is for Real” and inscribed the front with an encouraging note.

 

I read the entire book on the airplane as we headed back today. We landed and waited to catch the parking shuttle. I was frustrated with Brett because he had us waiting at the wrong stop for 15 minutes. As we finally got on the airport bus to get our car, I sat across from a young woman wearing a t-shirt with a young man’s photo on it. I asked her about him. The man on her shirt was Jason Reeves, her brother. He was killed in Afghanistan December 5, 2010 by a suicide bomber. He was 32 years old….half the age of my dad. He was born on my parents’ anniversary and my husband’s birthday. Moved to tears as she told us about him, I gave her my book that I had just read hoping it would bring her comfort. As we got off the second bus, Brett said “you know, if we hadn’t missed the bus, we wouldn’t have met her.”

Please go and read about Jason Reeves if you have a moment tonight. I’d love to honor his memory as well.

 

A few things written about my Dad that I wanted to link here so I don’t forget about them:

In Memoriam: Norm Swenson, Amateur Golf Champion and Bill Charest, Champion Nice Guy
Former Demon Deacon Golfer Norman Swenson Passes Away At The Age Of 64
Golf, Charlotte Lose A Friend In Norman Swenson
Norman Swenson, senior amateur golf standout, dies of heart attack at 64
Norman Swenson, Legacy.com
Norman V. Swenson, Jr. – World Club Championship

Norman Swenson Loved Golf – Global Golf Post
Farewell to an Old Friend

 

 

My Dad

I had tutorials ready to go up this week, starting tomorrow, and I had planned just to go on as though it were business as usual but I just can’t…….I just want to talk about my Dad.

 

My dad, Norman, was in Korea all last week with one of his best friends Kevin representing Pine Valley and the United States in the World Club Championship. It’s a huge honor…..a tournament representing the top 100 clubs and the top players at those clubs. They had a tremendous time and played their hearts out. My dad was so excited…..it would be his 3rd time competing.

 

Kevin and my Dad a few days ago at the opening ceremony with their caddies
photo source World Club Championship (Brian Morgan)

Yesterday on the almost 14 hour flight back, my dad and almost everyone else on the flight fell asleep for a few hours….

…..but my dad didn’t wake up.

Kevin was sitting behind him and woke to a small disturbance. A flight attendant had attempted to wake my dad and found him unresponsive with no pulse. A doctor was found immediately on board and tried repeatedly to resuscitate  him but he was gone. Just like that. They attribute it to natural causes…..maybe a small blood clot or a combination of factors. He was here in Palm Desert only a month ago and had a thorough check of his heart by my father-in-law, one of the best cardiologists around. Dad was healthy. That makes his passing so much harder to understand.

We are crushed….but we are so thankful for Kevin….who sat by my father for the remainder of the international flight and held his hand. He stayed with him for hours with the police and medical examiner and then the rest of the night with customs. He made sure every item my father owned stayed with him. He stayed with my dad until today when the funeral home was able to arrange transportation from Atlanta to Charlotte. I couldn’t imagine my father being on that flight all by himself, no one knowing who he was. He died peacefully and I know he was treated with dignity and love. Kevin was 100% devoted to watching over his friend, my dad, and returning him to us.

 

My dad was 64 years old and he lived more in those 64 years than most people would in 10 lifetimes.

He was honest and hardworking and fair.

He cared deeply for his family and friends.

He was confident and self assured.

He was witty and hilarious.

He was brilliant and motivated.

He was grateful and humble.

He was spiritual and full of life.

 

 

Photo from the book “Golfers” by Dick Durrance

I laid in bed last night reading his last email to my brother, sister and I: “Please call your mom and tell her that I miss her and am doing fine.  She does not have her e-mail working right now I think. Love Dad.”

And I kept listening to every voicemail over and over again. Hoping I would hear something I missed or would get a new message from him.

 

The hardest part? Boo has a special bond with all of her grandparents.

 

Boo knew something was wrong as soon as I picked up the phone last night. And all week she’s been asking “who gets to go to heaven?”

Boo: I want to go to heaven…..because Grandpa will be so lonely. I don’t want him to be lonely.

Me: He’s not lonely! God is there, Grandpa’s Mom and Dad are there, lots and lots of friends and even my pet duck Peepers from when I was little!

Boo: How did he get to heaven though?

Me: Angels took him.

Boo: And then they gave him wings right?! So now he’s an angel!

Me: Yes, he’s your angel now.

 

My parents visited for two weeks in April this year…..

……and we spent a week in January in Colorado skiing with him. We will treasure those moments more than all the riches in the world.

 

 

Everyone who met him never forgot him. He always had a slight smile and he whistled constantly.

 

He wanted the best for all his kids. He worried about us constantly. He had an opinion about everything. He mentioned Lil Blue Boo and Perfectly Perrywinkle to everyone he met. He was so proud of my brother the banker.

 

 

The flag at Linville Ridge was at half mast today. The news of his passing spread like wild fire. He touched so many lives and he will be missed more than he could have ever imagined.

And now he is Boo’s angel.

 

(Click image below to read Society of Seniors profile)

I love you Dad.

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