Monday, June 28, 2010

Family Ties are a Matter of Course

It started as a selfish way to drag my far-flung family to visit Rick and I in our new home. Sixteen years ago we invited all of my siblings and their children and my parents to the northern suburbs of Chicago for the inaugural Fitzgerald Family Golf Outing. This past weekend we gathered again, this time at my sister's home north of Grand Rapids. We rotate hosting duties throughout the family, thus forcing a visit to everyone's current hometown once every nine years! Traditions come from strange places, huh?

It's a simple concept, we meet once a year on the last weekend of June (typically) and those who feel compelled, golf for the ego-boosting claim to hold the traveling Fitzgerald Cup for a year. Later, everyone is invited (well, we do sort of expect the kids to be out of diapers before they join the fray, but otherwise its an open door!) to play in a four-person scramble. The prize? Family honor, bragging rights for one year, and a "Scramble Champs" tee shirt.

When my parents were alive they joined us on the golf course even though neither was a golfer. My mom used to borrow Aunt Elaine's golf clubs, but she was often referred to as a secret weapon because of her gifted putting ability! 

My dad loved that he could smoke cigars the entire time on the course! After a series of strokes left him with limited use of his right arm, he would either meet us at the final hole to celebrate or ride along with one team and tackle a putt here or there.

We're a boisterous group on the golf course. Especially when someone unexpected hits a great shot. But, that is the most wonderful part of the gathering. We challenge each other and we cheer our successes. Trust me, there is a lot of taunting and good-natured teasing, but ultimately it ends up feeling pretty good. Sort of like family life in general.

Generation gaps are celebrated as the youngest of the family group are partnered with the oldest and we all work together to become the Scramble Champs for the next 12 months. I love learning about the life of whichever niece or nephew I play with as we cruise the golf course. We connect one-on-one. With a family our size that doesn't happen often, so I treasure these opportunities.

I remember clearly when one of my nephews commented about the Fitzgerald Cup at that first outing, he said, "Someday I will have my name on that Cup and when I have kids they will too."

Yep. In fact, the Cup was won this year for the first time by a player from the next generation - my niece's fiance, Todd. Sort of a momentous occasion. We took it in stride. An amber ale was poured into the Cup and it was shared by past winners. At the time we were all cheering and laughing, but now that I think about it, that was a big deal.

That's life, the big moments get mixed in with the mundane. Thank goodness we periodically step back and ponder...even if it is on a golf course. We've created something special and we didn't even realize it was happening. Nice job family!

PS - Watch your backs Fitz's, Aunt Mo isn't going to let her golf game get rusty this year -- I'll be back next June and my team will once again reign as Scramble Champs!