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I didn’t know my father and golf

For most of my life, I wasn’t interested in learning about my father. On a state vacation from the German front in 1944, he married my mother, made her pregnant and returned to war. He never came back. Until I entered college, my mother said he was “missing in World War II.”

Twenty years later, when I visited my college dormitory, my mother revealed that my father was still alive. She muttered a bit, saying that he was sending $ 100 a month in child support and now he wants to share that money with me. I was impressed with her generosity, but refused to thank her for tweeting and passed the revelation without further discussion or remorse. I remember being embarrassed to implicitly admit that my mother had hidden the true fact that my father had disappeared throughout my childhood. She lived for another 42 years, and we never raised the issue again.

Author as a baby with his mother, 1945.


Courtesy William Damon

Why was I so interested in the fate and whereabouts of my missing father? I don’t think I wanted to open a cauldron of emotions that might confuse the path I was creating for my life. As a kid, I felt that the way my mother answered questions about my father showed feelings other than the simple sadness of losing my father. When I actually heard from her that he had abandoned us, I guessed he was an irresponsible cad. As a college student who still understands who I am, my instinct was to avoid identity with someone who could be a negative role model.

More than 40 years later, it was my daughter who finally introduced me to my father. I was able to learn, not directly (died for 20 years), but visualized as someone (I had never seen his picture). about. She searched online for records of her unfamiliar grandfather, “Philip Damon,” and found the oral history of the US Intelligence Agency. A veteran diplomat was asked out of nowhere, “Did you know Phil Damon when you were in Thailand?”

The diplomat replied yes, he knew Damon from their time in Germany and Thailand. According to diplomats, his father joined the German Foreign Affairs Bureau after retiring from the Army, divorced his mother, and soon married a “fun” French ballerina. In the 1950s, he moved to the USIA branch in Bangkok, where he and his second wife became close to the king and queen. The diplomat also said that my father was a “great golfer.”

Why didn’t you have the opportunity to learn the game from your father, this “great golfer”?

When I heard all this, the first thing that surprised me was the least dramatic item on the list. My dad was a “great golfer”! This unruly remark caused a grudge that I had never made myself aware of. Why did I complain to myself, my dad couldn’t come once or twice to teach me golf? I’ve always loved this game, but I couldn’t master more than just the right amount of skill. Why didn’t you have the opportunity to learn the game from your father, this “great golfer”?

I quickly overcame golf complaints and began looking for answers to the past that I chose to ignore for five years. I googled online leads for crumbled letters and faded files in old steel cabinets. I looked up my father’s relatives and visited libraries, archives, the British War Museum in London, and the small town where he grew up, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

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What I found not only surprised and reassured me, but also filled me with regret. There were many things that impressed me. At the end of the war, he was asked to testify as a witness in a famous war crimes trial, and reports from that time show that he acted with courage and integrity. Since then, he has a remarkable career in promoting democratic values ​​in Cold War Germany and Thailand. He started a second family with my dear half-sisters, the wonderful daughters.

The discovery of what he had accomplished did not burden me with my long-standing anxiety that he was an accountless villain. It did not diminish his irresponsibility of abandoning my mother and me at birth, but it provided me with respect for him and ultimately a way to forgive him.

It also provided a path to my own self-understanding. The revelation of my father’s life moved me to carry out a “life review”, a method developed by legendary psychiatrist Robert Butler. Life reviews look for past highs and lows by searching for memories and getting school records and other personal documents.

Author of Phillips Academy Andover as a third year high school student, 1963.


Courtesy William Damon

Above all, I found out that my dad and I attended the same school, Phillips Academy Andover. Andover wasn’t known in the underprivileged environment of Brockton, Massachusetts, so I always wondered how he got to this wonderful educational environment.

My mother knew my dad had gone there, so it became clear that she had arranged the necessary scholarships. It was an educational choice that took my life in a new direction, which revealed a surprising aspect of my mother’s view of my father. Their marriage was simple and broken, but he must have looked good enough to send her an only child to his school.

Regarding my golf complaint, one day one of my new cousins ​​called me to find a set of golf clubs that my dad owned when he was young. He sent me a club, and when I opened the slim canvas golf bag, I found a treasure: from the Pittsfield Country Club, where my dad made a round when he was 12 years old. Filled scorecard. There were 6 pars, which are excellent golf for kids playing old-fashioned irons, woods and balls.

How can I play those holes myself? I was overwhelmed by the urge to see the course my dad learned his game. I was lucky enough to find a connection with the club and have a tea time. On a brilliant spring day, I played with my dad’s old scorecard in mind, imagining him next to me. As for my score, my dad jumped above me, even when I was twelve.

A fictional round with my dad created a thread of felt connection with my dad. Meeting his living friends created a closer bond, and I now get acquainted with my half-sister, my cousin, and other members of his family.

Our ability to grow as we grow depends on our open mind, our curiosity, and our willingness to take the risk of finding something that can upset our emotional balance. In my attitude towards my missing father, I failed to take that risk for most of my life and lost the possibility of knowing him while he was still alive.

What did i learn? Have an important conversation with a loved one before it’s too late. It can be difficult. It may seem awkward or undesirable and may not end with a smile and a hug. But that’s the only way to avoid finding yourself in the back nine who crave for the company later in life.

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I didn’t know my father and golf

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