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My favorite trophy

Nat Pearlman was an awful golfer, but a lovely grandpa.

Back when I was a kid, I had a trophy shelf. It was really just a wood board nailed to my wall, and atop it I placed all my different tin running and baseball trophies. I wasn’t an especially good athlete, but back in Mahopac, N.Y. (as with most small towns with sports programs), trophies were the thing. I came to love those things; held them, cleaned them, caressed them as if they were my own offspring.

Then, one day, I packed my things for college and threw them all out. Never looked back.

Now, I only have one trophy in my house, and it’s not even mine. Way back on May 21, 1982 my grandpa, Nathan Pearlman, apparently played in a golf tournament near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’m not quite sure what Grandpa was thinking, because he was an awful athlete who once tried—and utterly failed—to show me how to address a ball. He did, to his credit, own a set of golf clubs. But they were these old, rusted crappies that he either inherited or purchased at the nearby thrift store (perhaps on his way to the 4:30 early bird dinner special).

Anyhow, when Grandpa died in the late-1990s, I walked through the Sunrise Lakes apartment he shared with my grandmother and asked whether I could keep the trophy. “Why would you want that?” someone asked.

I looked at the trophy’s inscription, and it spoke for itself. My grandpa couldn’t hit a golf ball more than 30 yards or swim a lap in the pool or run a mile. But he was loving and steady and decent and reliable. He didn’t win that day, or—I’m guessing—shoot lower than a 240. But he came, he played, he enjoyed.

He showed up.

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