As usual, in times of tragedy I revert to song lyrics.
My father was 65 years old when he died. Specifically, 65 years, 8 months and 17 days. Or 24,003 days. Or 34,563,625 minutes. Or 2,073,817,500 seconds (starting from midnight on the day he was born, as I don’t know the hour). Those are a lot of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. And most importantly, a lot of life, love, and memories.
Jim Vance was a great man. He was a fantastic father, husband, brother and son. He met Sara McQuay on August 20, 1977 and they married on June 1, 1979. My brother Chris was born in 1981, and I followed in 1984. Dad was great about always being involved in our activities. He coached us through a bunch of seasons of basketball and baseball, always encouraging and motivating us to our best, even if our athletic abilities were lacking. He also passed down a love of golf, and many weekends featured walking the fairways of Skungamaug River Golf Course. In many ways, I suspect that I always wanted to be like my father and brother. This is why I chose to be born on my brother’s birthday, and why I golfed right-handed like the both of them (or maybe lefty golf clubs for children weren’t easy to find in the early 90’s).
My father took me on my first tour of colleges when I was a junior in high school, a tour which included Cornell University. From the first moment that I stood there, far above Cayuga’s waters, I felt like I was home. My time at Cornell left me with a lot of great friendships and memories, and led me to where I am today (I’ve got a flowchart if you’d like to see it).
While I lived in Myrtle Beach, my father’s golf group visited the area for their annual golf trip. That was probably the first time that I truly saw him as a human being, and not just a parent. It was interesting to see how everyone in the group interacted together, laughing and heckling and acting in a way that I’d never truly seen from them before. It was “boys being boys”, a relaxed, fun environment that I will forever remember, along with the trip that I joined them on to Charlotte while I lived in Georgia.
Our family traveled a lot together. One of my first vacation memories is to the Four Corners/Grand Canyon. Lotaburger/Rafting/Horseback Riding, there are some great pictures and even better memories. We visited Gettysburg, as Dad and I both had a passion for American History. Dad and I visited Russia when I was in the 8th grade as part of an exchange program, where we saw Red Square, the Bolshoi, St. Petersburg and Khimki. Our entire family went to Europe in the late 90’s, seeing Paris, Chamonix, Switzerland, various cities in Italy including Venice, a beautiful countryside in Austria with a wonderful B&B, Germany, and then back to Paris.
My favorite trip was our 2008 journey to Scotland, just the two of us. My father and I were able to play at Carnoustie, Crail and the Old Course at St. Andrews. The weather was typical Scotland, fog lasted till mid-afternoon and we wore long sleeves in July. We both had our struggles during the rounds, but nothing will ever match reaching the final holes at the Old Course. Teeing off on the Road Hole and crossing the Swilcain Bridge will forever stick out in my mind for the emotional impact.
As my father’s health declined, it became harder for him to do the things that he loved. We still got in a few rounds of golf, though his touch had deserted him. He never complained or blamed the CBD, he just kept on living his life. My mother was always a positive force, taking him for his appointments, watching over him and keeping us updated. Their winter trips to the South were fantastic, as I never managed to get back home as much as I should have.
And in some ways, our wedding was truly the race to the altar that our Save The Date advertised. We were facing an opponent with endless stamina and a lack of mercy. As Dad’s health continued to decline, we made plans for how he would be at the wedding, and it was truly a special occasion with his presence. Millie Holloman, a fantastic photographer that I would recommend to anyone looking for a wedding photographer, took my favorite picture of us after the ceremony, before the reception.
We danced, we laughed, we celebrated, what more could anyone want? Thanks to Skype, we had several more chances to talk face-to-face, including one conversation from our honeymoon in St. Lucia. And then, all too suddenly, he was gone.
As cliche as it is, I wish there had been more time. I wish I could have learned more about him and his life. I’m sure there are more stories that hear, more lessons to learn. Marriage has shown me a lot of what I’m sure my parents were like before we came along. And I’ve also seen lots of great pictures in the past 24 hours of my parents without Chris and me around. In matching Halloween costumes or with friends, happy, relaxed, enjoying life. Sometimes we can forget that our parents, the people that we idolize and influence our lives in so many ways, are people like everyone else. I intend to make sure that my children see us this way as well, as two people who love each other and love life. I can only hope to be a shadow of the role models that my parents and Lauren’s parents have been in our lives.
Thank you for all the memories and lessons, Jim, we’ll miss you.
If you’d like to make a donation in James Vance’s honor, we suggest The First Tee of Connecticut, 55 Golf Club Road, Cromwell, CT 06416, or online at TheFirstTeeConnecticut.org