My father and Uncle Conard were two of thirteen children in their family during the Great Depression. Making it worse, their father abandoned them. So Dad had to quit ninth grade to help support the family, and he became a caddy. Uncle Conard was younger, but he also caddied. Years later they would play golf at a public course, and I would carry Uncle Conard’s clubs.
When I Caddied for Uncle Conard…
he taught me the rich vocabulary of anger.
As he’d fling a five iron into the pond
where he’d shanked the ball
or wrap a nine iron around a tree,
he’d aim the profanity at himself
while I waited with his golf bag, quietly.
Mom pawned her Singer each lean summer
for pinto beans and powdered milk.
Come each September Conard gladly bought us boys
cotton shirts and jeans which
bleached in the weekly washings
by June became skin-soft and pale.
A Korean War vet and Catholic who nonetheless loved other men,
we eventually lost track of him and heard years later he’d died
a wasting death, spurned by family and Church,
the man who taught me to love Satchmo and Ella, Basie and Hirt,
Conard, who bought us cotton jeans and shirts
which became pale, fragile as skin.