posted on August 09, 2010 18:12
CHANGING MY MIND
by Tom Ingalls
(First appeared in the Fall 1999 Issue of The Shivas Irons Society Newsletter)
Growing up in Minnesota was just about as idyllic a childhood as I can imagine. Plenty of lakes, land, and not a lot of people. The people I did know—friends at school, the guy at the lake, the waiters at the country club, my ski coach—all were much like me. At the time, in the 1950's, 75% of these folks were of Scandinavian descent. Fortunately, my parents liked to travel, so I had gotten to see much of the world by the time I left Minneapolis for art school in the East and graduate school in California. Along the way, I never paid much attention to people with physical or mental problems; they weren't, after all, my problem. In fact, whenever a situation presented itself in which I had to interact with such a person, I would run the other way. This distance built a wall in my heart and mind that got taller as the years progressed. My only consciousness in this area was the enormous size of new bathrooms that had to accommodate, by law, people who needed special access.
Fast forward to June 1999. Attending my third Shivas Irons tournament in Monterey, CA, was something that I had looked forward to for months. Arriving early at Old Del Monte, I decided to eat breakfast looking out at the golf course. As I ate, I noticed a a man who seemed to be disabled, struggling toward the registration area. I remembered him from the previous year but had not paid much attention to him then. This morning I seemed to be drawn into his drama. I felt pity for him and for the golfers that would have him as their playing partner. Then I remembered, uneasily, my request to Steve Cohen that I be paired with some interesting people since I was writing a story about the Society. After breakfast I joined the gathered members. Marty Turcios, the man with the disability, was at a table near me, getting settled. After the morning discussion, we proceeded to our golf carts to learn who, in fact, we were paired with for the scramble.
Well, of course, Marty was in my foursome. My brain started to come unglued as we rode out to our tee, my speeding mind making this journey seem like the Indy 500. What was this going to be like? Would I be annoyed? Would I turn away again? It was time to test the strength of that wall.
As we prepared to tee off, Marty came alive. His speech pattern was hard to discern at first, but I could understand him if I paid attention. His setup was stunning. With all the muscle control he could muster, he gripped and ripped at the ball. His first shot went straight down the fairway, not long but true. What a relief! Now, much to my delight, Marty grabbed the cart and whizzed off gathering up our balls and transporting them to the obvious best ball position for the next shot. The scramble format required that the golfer whose drive was chosen could not hit the second shot, and so on with each following hit. This format introduced both strategy and team spirit. Once on the green, Marty was a great asset. He could both putt and let go with some great banter that gathered us all into his high spirits.
Quickly my attitude started to change. I focused on the desire and perseverance that he was displaying. As the round progressed, our foursome became a group of merry pranksters, laughing and making fun of ourselves and of anything else that came up. Not only did I start to care for Marty, I felt his enormous strength of character and kindness. With Shivas as our fifth golfer, I felt as if we were the chosen ones. Everyone hit at least a few great shots, and as a team we really came together. I remember clearly how I felt as we walked off the 18th green. My attitude and feeling towards people with disabilities would forever be different. I would notice them and look for the similarities instead of the differences. Marty, with his crazy smile, helped me take all those years of indifference and wash them away.
As we returned to our carts, I joked that the day had been fantastic except for having to play with Marty. He got right up in my face and said, “Tom, you suck.” I laughed until tears filled my eyes. Out on the golf course, as you know, a true sign of friendship is the casual insult. I had a new friend.
Later as we gathered for dinner, I looked for Marty and made sure that I sat with him. The evening was spectacular and full of Shivas’ spirit. Michael Murphy spoke and encouraged us to look deep into our own potential and be more open to all the possibilities of life. I felt a rush of warmth inside me as I listened, and reflected on the vast opening that had been made into my old stagnant attitude towards people with disabilities. So, this is what they mean when they talk about transformation.
Change, change is good!