Love, Mini Golf, and Trips Down Memory Lane

faithcation_goofy-golfWhen my wife told me we were invited to her friend’s wedding in Florida, my mind soon arrived on a clear, wonderful thought: We can go to Goofy Golf.

Goofy Golf is, to me, the ideal upon which all miniature golf should be measured, down to the giant green T-Rex welcoming you from the road and the aloof teenager selling you rounds for $3. The course, classic in its design, boasts none of the tawdry geysers or caves of today’s flashier putt-putt providers. It’s the kind of place that seems to have been there forever, or at least as long as anyone can remember.

Unfortunately, I rarely if ever got to visit this beautiful chunk of putt-putt paradise when I was a kid. My grandparents used to live in the area, and when we’d visit, we’d pass by Goofy Golf on our way to everything — dinner, the beach, church, everywhere.

Seemingly each time we visited, I would ask my mom if we could go to Goofy Golf. It was rarely a “no,” but rather a “we’ll see” or “maybe tomorrow” or “if we have time while we’re here.”

We may have gone once. If that.

I’m older now, and while my excitement for Goofy Golf has not lessened, our reasons to go to Florida have. My grandparents there passed away a number of years ago and, while we still have close family and great friends in the area, our trips there are now fewer and farther between.

So when my wife told me that her friend was getting married very near to Goofy Golf and my grandparents’ house, I began to lay out the itinerary in my mind. If we get there in advance, we can see my kin and then hit all my favorite spots — McGuire’s Irish Pub, the Back Porch, the Crab Trap. We can do it all.

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Of course, we would have to go to Goofy Golf. We can’t come this close and not go. There are rules for living life.

My wife was game for all of this. Even though she was very pregnant during the trip, she allowed me to zip her around Florida’s Emerald Coast for as much nostalgia as I could pack into the day and a half before her friend’s wedding. I showed her all the places we used to go, some of which aren’t there any more, and stories trickled back into my mind that I hadn’t had occasion to share in years.

That trip was a reminder of how lucky I am to be married to my wife, and what her love means to me. I found someone who’s ready to go anywhere with me, even into the past, so that I can remember who I am and where I came from.

In marriage, you ask the other person to build a life with you with everything they’ve got and everything you’ve got. You ask them to walk with you, not knowing where you will go or what you will find. There will be challenges and frustrations, fights and disagreements, but you trust that this person will be your companion and protector, your partner and confidant along the way.

It’s probably not a coincidence, then, that we read the well-known passage from Ruth at our wedding. “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge,” Ruth said. “Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

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My wife may not have been in the car when we drove by Goofy Golf all those times when I was a kid, but in her love for me, she wants to understand those things that bring me joy. She wants to go where I go, and I feel the same about her. And so, when I’m uncommonly excited to stroll down memory lane and visit the mini golf course that got away, she’s ready to ride.

As the sun set on a hot summer afternoon last year, we pulled into Goofy Golf and paid our $3 to play. We strolled between colorful animals and totem poles, high-fiving when we hit holes in one. We took pictures with the big T-Rex and sent them to my family.

Goofy Golf was exactly what I hoped it would be. And I’m glad I got to share it with her.

In our life together, my friends have become her friends. Her family has become my family. And now, my love of this little mini golf course that exists mostly in my memories belongs to her, too.

(Previously published July 23, 2015)