Bendaddy’s Life Advice

I only ever knew my grandfather as Bendaddy. And I only ever knew my grandmother as Nana. That never changed for all the years I knew them and loved them. Nana was the anchor of our home with an even temperament, a solid Christian ethic, and the cooking ability of any television chef. The Barefoot Contessa could learn from her culinary expertise.

Benaddy Picard was very different. He was an accomplished craftsman, a tool and die maker courted by every big manufacturing company from the auto industry to the aircraft corporations. He was also authoritative and sincerely believed his own view of life was unchallengeable and the last word in any debate. The man completed four major crosswords a day and could write letters that looked like Thomas Jefferson had penned them. At one time he had worked as a telegrapher who could key or write with either hand simultaneously as he sent and received railroad messages.

I often posed questions for him to answer or render his opinion, especially after being introduced to fresh ideas from school.

“Bendaddy,” I asked on evening, “what is the Brownian Movement?”

“What you probably learned in school today told of how molecules in liquids move at different speeds depending on the temperature. Well, you’ll learn one day that that’s horseshit. The Brownian Movement of senior life is a factor that relates to how fast you can get to crapper before you shit your pants.”

I doubted that my science teacher would ever accept that answer on a quiz.

When I reached the era of what I called The Age of Unexpected Erections,” I asked him what was the stuff that came out of your penis when you got aroused.

Without looking up from his crossword, he said, “Wrinkles.”

At golf, his favorite outdoor pastime, he had coined several philosophical tenets, which I’m sure are engraved at St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland.  A few went like this:

“Putts that never make it to the hole seldom go in the hole.”

“Bad shots are part of the game. Just thank God there are no pictures on your scorecard.”

“Most golfers have poor results because they stand too close to the ball …after they hit it.”

“A double eagle is more elusive than a fart in a cyclone.”

“If you want to win matches with an arrogant superior player every time, get your opponent to allow you to put in your handicap points on your card after the game. That will leave the cocky sonofabitch talking to himself and slinging clubs in the lake.”

“Don’t try to hit through trees. That idiot who said trees were 90 percent air was full of 100 percent bullshit. A single leaf can knock your finest on-target shot to the ground like the Clantons at the O.K. Corral.”

“If your ball goes into the water, never reuse it. The goddamned thing betrayed you once, so forget the little white cocker and let it drown.”

“People who try to control one-irons are on a par with dogs who chase cars. Neither is long for this world.”

“If you four-putt more than three greens in a round, take your clubs to the landfill and learn how to play gin rummy.”

“Try not to shoot your weight in a round. It takes six hours to finish and it pisses off the caddy.”

When Bendaddy’s eyesight began to change he appealed to the golf pro at his country club.

“Hey, Bill, I’m hitting the ball every bit as well as I ever did, but I can’t see the damn thing when it’s out there a couple hundred yards. Any idea what I can do?”

“Ben, you pay for a caddy with your dues, Why not take one along on your round?”

“Aw, shit, I don’t want somebody schlepping my clubs all around the course.”

“He doesn’t have to carry your clubs,” Bill said. “He can just ride with you in the cart and spot your ball. That’s all.”

“Really? That would be great. I have a dawn tee time for tomorrow. Think you can get me a guy for my round?”

“I’ll get Charlie to meet you on the tee at sunrise.”

“Thanks a million, Bill,” my granddad said and left with a big smile.

The next morning Bendaddy drove his cart to the first tee and looked for his caddy. The only other person on the tee was a ninety-year-old hunchback man.

“Are you Charlie?” Bendaddy asked.

“That’d be me,” the old timer said and moseyed over to my granddad’s cart.

“Aren’t you kinda old for this job?”

“I’m just supposed to spot your ball. I got eyes like a hawk.”

“Okay …” Bendaddy said and teed up his ball.

He smacked nice drive down the middle and turned to the caddy.

“Did you see it?”

“Yep,” Charlie said, “I saw it.”

“Well, where is it?”

“Fucked if I know. Am I supposed to do everything?”

I went through life with Bendaddy until I went to California. He had become the father I lost at thirteen and filled that role wonderfully with never a boring moment. He was colorful, super intelligent, and the perfect fit for my turbulent young life.

On the last night of his life when my grandmother visited him at the hospice where he was dying of emphysema, his final breaths coming in labored gasps.

At the end of every visit, Bendaddy ended with the same phrase.

“See you tomorrow, Ann.”

But on this evening his departing words were different, not a change lost on my grandmother. His last words to his beloved Ann were these:

“I guess I always knew if I hung around long enough something like this shit would happen. I think this is going to be goodbye, Ann.”

She kissed him and he left her at the age of 80.

I can’t play golf without thinking of him and I know he would be proud that I never four-putt more than one green per round.