My third cup of coffee sits to my right upon a coffee table. The blanket I’m lazily curled up under is App. State colored (not my preference, but it was the only blanket I saw). Outside the large window in front of me, the short scrubby pine trees are being blown around by the morning breeze coming off the Atlantic Ocean just 200 yards from me. Grey clouds with small areas of blue breaking through adorn the brightening sky. It’s a cool early October morning in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but the beach house I’m in for the week is warm and cozy. Beach- and nautical-themed decorations are everywhere—just what one would expect in a home on the Outer Banks. In the past two years, this is the fifth time I’ve traveled either to the mountains or the coast to unwind and enjoy a break from life with the people who have become the “family you choose.” They are the people who have become one of the most important parts of my life—my friends. But the way these friends came into my life occurred only because of the pandemic and the unnecessary chaos it created.
In April of 2020, our lives and the world were turned upside down. My job with the PGA Tour ended abruptly. Instead of being on the road and traveling from city to city, I was stuck at home. Fortunately, my other job as a general contractor continued. But now, I found myself at home for an extended period of time. The weather was getting nicer, but the restrictions many places were enforcing were less than appealing to me. Let’s just say I didn’t just quietly fall into line. So, I had to find a place I could go to get out of my apartment without being hassled about masks or social distancing. I found that place at a winery about a 20-minute drive from my apartment. There I could enjoy live music, sit in the sun with my feet up and “people-watch” without hassle. With nowhere else to go, I began to visit this establishment quite frequently. It was there that I met a group of people who would go on to become an integral part of my life. Considering I had traveled close to 180 days a year with my job, I didn’t really have many friends other than co-workers. But being forced to stay home turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
They say that good things can come out of bad situations. That’s exactly what happened. My life has been enriched by a group of real-life “FRIENDS.” The popular sitcom that portrayed a group of people going through the ups and downs of life together has become a reality for me. Even though I now travel a lot again for the PGA, when I am home, I make time for this special group of people who help each other get through this thing that we call “life.”
One of the greatest aspects of our friendships is the laughter that ensues when we get together—and Lord knows, laughter is a much-needed part of life, especially nowadays. Laughter may be the best medicine, but good friends have been the prescription. Why we haven’t been kicked out of establishments from our raucous laughter is a miracle. But we’re never disorderly. We’re just a group of middle-aged people cutting up, enjoying life, and harmlessly having fun. There’s something to be said about being a part of a group that truly loves each other. I feel sorry for people who have never experienced the bonds of close friendship with a group of kindred spirits.
Time and life are fleeting. What better way to look back on one’s life than with a multitude of memories of time spent with the family we choose, the people we call “friends”?