A/N: There will be no appearances by famous golfers in the story, but it is hard to write this without mentioning a few in passing. All those players who are actively in the story are fake…except John Robert, or Johnny as his grandma calls him, he is a nod to my dad, who isn't famous, but loves the game and was my font of information in this story. The win you all cheered was of his creation as he helped me write both believable and entertaining golf. Thanks also to my beta and friend A Cullen Wannabe for all her love, support and letting me beta for her too which has brought me a lot of peace during a crazy few months. And, to Mizzdee who stepped in when I needed her to get this chapter out, as ACW wasn't able to for personal reasons. This was never expected to be a huge success, mainly because I didn't think golf would get a huge draw, but the ones who have stuck with me, left me reviews and let me know how much you liked this little labor of love have meant the world to me. This was a story I felt compelled to tell.
When you see: ~%~%~ that is the fade in and out of the memories.
One last thing, I know that you all know about Tiger's story, but Phil Michelson is the number 2 golfer in the world and in June of 2009, he almost missed the US Open because his wife was having surgery as part of her treatment for breast cancer. For the last year he has played as her treatments have allowed and when he won the Masters this year it was a sweet moment because his wife was there and doing well and it was his triumphant return to the game with a clearer mind. This will come in briefly at the beginning of the chapter, but I didn't want you to question it.
Epilogue: A Life Well Played
The morning of the 2010 Masters Par-Three Contest was cool, but sunny as the competitors started their day. Isabella Cullen rolled over in her husband's arms and smiled as she thought over the last 53 years of marriage. Today was a big day for her; it had been 54 years since she played professionally and was only playing today at the request of the PGA, and her grandson.
Most of her family had descended on the town of Augusta, Georgia, which was the annual host of the Masters, and considered the official start of the season, to watch her make history alongside her eldest grandson, who turned pro after winning the US Open the previous year. Much like his grandmother had a half-century before him.
Edward stirred next to her and she laughed as he squeezed her frame close to his chest and kissed her shoulder. "Today's your big day, are you ready, darling?"
"I'll be a blip on SportsCenter, and PTI and Around the Horn will give me a moment's notice, but more because of Johnny than me." Isabella knew that the major story this week was not the golf, but the return of one of the games greats after a very public fall from grace. Being asked to comment, Bella smiled politely and told the reporters that it was a private matter and not knowing the people involved, she wouldn't speculate.
The game of golf had changed greatly in the last 50 years and though she was happy to see the game she loved grow in popularity since her time, the hounding of players as though they were celebrities or royalty, however, made her uneasy and concerned for her grandchild and his family as he could potentially be subjected to the same scrutiny as his career progressed.
It was easy to see the unease that had overcome her and Edward went to her, not knowing what had caused it. "Bella, what is it?"
She shook her head and smiled weakly. "I was just thinking about the media coverage and how unfair it is that Tiger and Phil and the rest get hounded like that. I never had to deal with that, but could you imagine if we had been followed like that?"
"Are you comparing us falling in love with what he did? I have no sympathy for a man who cheats on his wife. He should have divorced her if he was that unhappy."
"What about Phil and Amy? Do they deserve it?"
Edward sighed as he pulled Bella closer. "No, but they've managed to handle themselves with dignity and Johnny will be the same way when they turn their focus his way, so please stop worrying about things that haven't even happened yet."
Bella smiled to herself and went to get ready for the day. The par-3 contest was a special day for the player as it was more about the fun than the trophy, many players using their children as their caddies as her grandson would; Isabella chose to use the same caddie that had spent the last half-century by her side.
Leaving the bathroom, Edward smiled at his bride and placed his hand on the small of her back as they left on the way to the course.
Pulling into the gate of Augusta National, she reached over and took his hand. "What if I'm horrible? I'm not sure I'll be able to make it over all the water that comes into play on this course."
"Darling, people want to see you play. It's understandable that you won't hit like you did at 20, but that isn't the point. A whole new generation will get to see the first woman to win a major tournament play for themselves."
Isabella smiled at his encouragement as they entered the clubhouse and found JR waiting for them. "Grandma, you ready to get out there and play?"
"I am, how are you feeling this morning?"
"Great! The kids are so excited." Isabella and Edward were so happy to hear that their great grandchildren were anticipating the day out on the course. As they collected their bags and headed out to the first hole, Bella remembered a journey home from another golf course half a lifetime ago.
For three days, Edward and I sat on the train in the cocoon of our engagement, before the train made its way to Seattle. The morning of our arrival, I woke first, three hours before our scheduled arrival with a nervous stomach. Accidentally waking Edward as I tried to make my way to the restroom to freshen up, I returned to a concerned fiancé. "Sweetheart, are you all right? You've been feeling worse the longer we've been on the train."
Smiling at my love and his obvious concern, I answered him. "It isn't the train, simply the fewer miles that lie between us and Seattle, the worse I feel."
He pulled me close and stroked my back. "Bella, it will be a shock for them, but they will see firsthand just how much I love you."
With that comment, I sank into his side and tried to relax for the remainder of the ride.
As the train pulled into the stop, I fidgeted uncontrollably as we gathered our carry-ons and made it to where we could collect our baggage in the station. Having grabbed all of our luggage, including my golf clubs, Edward and I stepped out into the sunlight only to come face to face with my parents.
"Isabella! Congratulations, sweetheart." My father pulled me into one of his rare hugs as his eyes drifted to Edward. "Thank you, son, for helping our daughter, but we have it from here."
My dad went to take the bags from Edward when I stopped him. "Daddy, this is Edward Cullen. He was my caddie during the tournament and now, well…he's my fiancé."
Charlie's eyes darted between the two of us, but it was my mother that acted first. She moved forward and grabbed my arm, pulling me away from the men.
Edward's eyes were glued to me, but a clearing of his soon to be father-in-law's throat brought him back to the current situation, although I could hear him as my mother began her rant. "Sir, I know this is a shock and I wish I could have asked for your blessing before I asked her to marry me. However, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to make the trip with her and I wanted Bella to know just how much she meant to me before she got on that train. I love your daughter, Chief Swan, and I would never do anything to hurt her."
"Isabella Marie Swan, listen to me!" I looked to see my mother enraged. "What is the matter with you? You were gone for little more than a week and you forgot everything your father and I taught you? This boy is only going to hurt you!"
"No he isn't. I'm wearing his grandmother's ring on my finger and he traveled clear across the country so he could show you and Dad how much he loves me. Why can't you see that?"
"We'll discuss this later, but don't expect to be living in sin in my house." As soon as my mother stormed off to the car, I felt Edward's hand on my back before he handed me his handkerchief.
"Are you okay, my love?" I looked up to see the fear in his eyes that I may not find him worth the trouble.
"We'll be fine. Let's just get home."
Edward and I walked to the car and my mother was waiting by the back seat. "Get in, Isabella."
Sliding into the backseat, my mother got in next to me as Edward and my father packed the trunk and then got in the front seat.
For the entire ride home, there was an uncomfortable silence and the entire day after my mother refused to talk to either of us. After dinner, there was a set of sheets and pillows on the couch, even though we had an additional bedroom that Edward could have used. I was livid at seeing that, but Edward told me that it was fine and that we'd work it out.
While my mother was gone the next day, my father took the opportunity to play a round of golf with Edward, claiming he would get to know him better on the course than he could talking to him at the house. During the time, I had by myself, I went through my room and began packing.
I took out my steamer trunk and began layering clothes with my belongings, using the clothing to wrap the more delicate items so they would survive the trip. I knew we still had another four days here until Edward had to leave so he could return to the store, unwilling to leave his father in the lurch for more than two weeks, and I now refused to stay behind. I knew that he was where I belonged and I wasn't going to live without him based on the assumptions of my mother.
I was about halfway through my dresser when there was a knock on my door. "Come in."
I knew it was too early for the boys to be home and I was ready to have this conversation with my mother. "Isabella, what are you doing?"
"Packing. Edward and I have to be on a train back to Rochester in a few days and I want to make sure that everything of value makes the journey with us."
My mother caught my hands and I looked up to see a torn expression on her face. "This is my fault. If I hadn't pushed you and told you that no man would want to marry you with your hobby then you wouldn't be throwing away your future on the first man to show you any interest."
I pulled my hands from hers and continued my chore. "That isn't what happened. From the moment I meant him, Edward has been there to help, protect, and love me. I know it was fast, but that doesn't make it any less true. Don't think so little of me mother, I wouldn't go with anyone just because they showed some interest."
"There's no need to be crude, Isabella!" my mother snapped at the innuendo.
"And there's no need to be cruel, mother. I'm not an idiot and I'm also an adult, who is free to make my own choices. Now Edward and I are getting married, and it would mean the world to me if you and daddy came, but it will not change my decision in any of this if you continue to belittle our relationship."
Turning back to my task, I could feel her watching me. "Where are you staying when you move back to New York?"
"Edward's father owns a grocery store and there's an apartment above it. We'd be living there so he only had to go downstairs to make it to work in the morning. His sister's fiancé lived there until he had saved to buy their house so it's vacant at the moment."
"When would you be getting married?" There was still an air of condescension in her question but she was asking them, which was more than she had been since I got off the train.
"We hadn't discussed it, but we became close with a few of the golfers and their wives and we would like them there, so it would have to be in the winter, before the season starts again."
"What will you do? You would be out there all alone and Edward will be at work all day."
I smiled as I recognized that she was nervous about how I would cope without my family, which meant that she was accepting it. "Esme, Edward's mom is there and so is his sister. They're great and when you meet them and see the support system I'll have around me, you'll see that I will be fine. Plus, I'll have Edward, and he's the most important part. Mother, he's a good man, and he loves me. Please, see that."
My mother took in a stuttering breath and I turned again to see her near tears. "I'm just going to miss you so much. But you aren't a child and I will have to trust your judgment here."
We finished packing my things and when my father and Edward arrived home, he was shocked by how close my mother and I were. The next few days passed faster than I would have liked, and soon we were on platform waiting to go home. With hugs and promises to speak to each other and write as often as we could, Edward and I boarded the train for home.
"Bella?" She turned to Edward and smiled.
"Sorry, I was just remembering the trip back to Washington after the last tournament. Are we up?"
"Yes, here's your club." She took her club from Edward and smiled at him one last time as she stepped up to the tee and took her swing. Her shot landed just short of the green, the applause of the gallery was welcoming as she watched Johnny's shot land a few yards of the hole.
Taking her second swing, the ball rolled near the hole, allowing her to tap it in and walk off the first green with a raised hand to the adoring crowd.
Standing off to the side as JR teed off on the second hole, Bella's mind drifted back through the years once more.
Alice was blurring around me as she worked to get everything setup in the main room, Esme had been sitting with me as I finished up the last of my hair and makeup, the large carnation tucked into my bun. A few loose pieces framed my face as Esme helped me into my tea-length dress, its tiny circular lace pattern holding my attention as the zipper clicked up until I was ready to walk down the aisle. The knock on the door pulled me from my thoughts as I turned to see my parents. My mother was crying and the smile on my father's face told the story of the past few days.
They had come to know the Cullen's over the last few months, Esme insisting on corresponding with my mother so she knew I was well taken care of here. Esme kissed my cheek as Alice popped in to grab both of our bouquets so I could have a private moment with my parents.
"You look so lovely, my dear."
I smiled and tried to keep from crying. "Thank you, mom. I'm so glad you were both able to make it."
"We wouldn't miss our only daughter's wedding. It doesn't matter how far she is from us now. The course isn't the same without you, Bella."
I laughed at my father's attempt at levity. "Dad, you played with two of the tour's best players and your soon to be son-in-law yesterday, I'm sure I pale in comparison."
"Hush. Now, they're ready for you out there, so how about we get you out there to your husband."
My mom sobbed as the knock came at the door. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but it's time. Renee, would you like to come with me so we can find our seats?"
My mother hugged me one more time and then left with Esme, barely holding in her tears.
Taking my father's offered hand, I walked out of the bride's room and met Alice at the door to the smaller hall at the Rochester Club Ballroom; the larger room was already set for the reception.
With my bouquet of calla lilies and roses in hand, Alice vanished into the hall as the music began. When the change in the song occurred, I took a deep breath and looked at my father. Offering a small nod, he walked me through the doorway and into the hall. There was a quiet commotion and the distinct flashing of the photographer's lens, but I saw nothing but Edward.
He stood rooted at the altar, his eyes transfixed on my own as I glided to him with a grace I'd never known. The suit he wore was simple by most standards, but that was my Edward. It was jet black with a thin tie, his father's tie clip holding it in place and focusing my attention on his chest for a moment. Sweeping my eyes over his lower half and the pants and shoes that encased his muscular legs, I looked back to see the smirk on his face. His hand reached out to me and I felt my father take my hand from where it was tucked into his arm and place it in Edward's as the preacher asked who gave me away.
The ceremony was brief as we spoke the same words that had been uttered by countless couples before, and would continue to be spoken for years to come. When his lips touched mine, I got a little carried away, but his chuckle against my lips brought me back to the moment.
As Edward held me to him, the opening bars of "Unforgettable" played and I had never felt more loved. He was amazing and today he was mine. That was the only thought that played in my mind. The dance with my father was bittersweet, he really wasn't a crier, but he shed more than a few on the dance floor.
The rest of the evening passed with good friends and good wine and soon it was Edward and I off to parts unknown, to me at least, for our honeymoon.
Bella smiled to herself as she walked up to the third tee. JR was talking to her great-grandchildren, reminding her of a time when babies were all she could think of as well. Holding her hand out for the club that she knew Edward was offering her, she smiled at where her thoughts took her.
Edward had been working so hard the past few weeks since arriving home from our honeymoon that I hadn't been seeing much of him, as my stomach was quite upset and sending me to bed before he came up from the store. On this night, I had gone to sleep so early that as Edward's weight dipped the bed down, I shifted and my stomach went wrong. I was soon bent over the commode with Edward kneeling beside me. "Bella, are you ill?" I nodded and he brushed my hair away from my face. "How long?"
"It's been a few weeks, but it isn't much, just an upset stomach and it's mainly in the morning."
Awakening dawned on me as Edward whispered my name. "Edward, call the doctor. I think we may be with child, my love."
Edward was kissing my hair as we returned to bed.
It took a few days for the results to arrive, but when they did, my darling husband, in-laws and even my doctor conspired to keep me in bed. I tried to convince Edward that I could function, but both of them were pushing for me to at least stay on bed rest until my second trimester.
Looking over at her Johnny, as he sank his putt on the third green made her smile. His father, Joseph, was the first of five beautiful children Edward and Bella had together and that pregnancy was the easiest of the lot.
While Isabella and Edward walked from the third green over to the fourth tee, with JR and the kids as well as the photographers in tow, Edward's mind drifted to a very different pregnancy.
I felt truly blessed in the short years that Bella and I had been married. We had two amazing children and a third on the way and we had finally saved enough to buy a house for us, as the apartment would soon have a fifth occupant. This pregnancy had gone so well for us, much like Joseph's, giving me a little hope that it might be a boy, although another little girl like my Linda would be a blessing as well. As long as mother and child were healthy, I wasn't going to be picky.
Bella was now six months along and she was the picture of perfection as her belly was rounded with my child. With a two and a half year old and a 20-month old calling out and crying for her, Alice had practically moved in with us as she and my mom took turns helping Bella out. When Alice was here, it was insanity with Brandon running around now and urging his cousins to join in on the action.
It was on that day, with the pitter-patter of little feet overhead that our world changed forever.
I was packing out the produce that had just arrived on the truck when my father walked over to me. "Son, the Western Union man is here for you." I could see the confusion on his face and I am sure it matched my own. There was no reason for someone to send a telegram when the phone would do. I walked out front and met the older gentleman and tipped him as he handed me the paper. Opening it up, I felt my heart drop into my feet.
The telegram, from the family attorney, stated that Mr. and Mrs. Charles Swan had been killed in an automobile accident the previous day. He requested that we call him with respect to the handling of business before we traveled out for the funeral. How would I ever tell Bella?
Walking past my father, I climbed the stairs to the apartment to find Alice chasing the children around as she tried to convince them to nap. Still searching for an answer, I helped my sister get the kids to bed and felt her hand reach out and take mine. "It's bad, isn't it?"
I nodded and she wrapped me in a hug. "How'd you know?"
"You don't leave work mid-day to put the kids down for a nap, and you look so lost."
"Where is Bella?"
Alice took a deep breath and motioned towards the bedroom door. "She wasn't feeling well, so I was able to get her to lie down."
Thanking my sister, I went into the bedroom and saw my angel lying on top of the covers. Unable to disturb her, I simply watched her sleep, knowing that when she opened her eyes I would be breaking her heart. As if she felt my presence, her eyes fluttered open and she looked at me with worried eyes. "What is it? Did something happen to the kids?"
I moved to the bed and tried to calm her. "Bella, the kids are fine. Please, I need you to calm down. I have some bad news." She took a shaky breath and then nodded for me to continue. "There was an accident in Washington…darling, your parents didn't make it."
Bella started to hyperventilate as the tears fell. "Oh, my God. How will we…? When can we…? I'm not going to get to say good-bye. It's too expensive and I'm too far along and…"
Bella broke off into loud sobs as I held her. "Darling, I am so sorry. Why don't I call your doctor and see if he can come and see you."
"What? Edward, I'm not going on bed rest again. I promise it'll be okay. Just call and make the arrangements for me. My father made most of the decisions already, but you'll need to have someone handle the house and everything. That's going to be a lot of work, but the lawyer should be able to help you with that."
I sat there as she rambled; trying to hold it together and it nearly killed me. I knew she wanted to be involved in this, but it would be so stressful and I knew she believed it was bad luck for her to be there. Renee had instilled all of those superstitions in her and now she was going to have to mourn her parents from across the country.
After a call to the attorney, I realized just how difficult it would be to do this from where we were, and it was that night as Bella and I lay in bed that I asked her something I didn't want to. "Bella, I think I'm going to have to make the trip to Washington, unless you know someone who could arrange all of this, I think it would be too difficult to trust that it would all make it here."
"If you think its best, then you should handle it. I trust your judgment." I now knew what I would be doing tomorrow; I would speak to my father about renting a U-Haul and driving across country to pack up my in-law's things while my pregnant wife stayed behind.
"Edward, sweetheart?" Edward turned to see the concern now in Bella's eyes.
"I'm sorry, just remembering when you were pregnant with Kathleen."
"And your cross-country drive?"
He nodded and she smiled, taking his hand as she paused to sign a few autographs near the fifth hole. As Bella's mind continued to wander to thoughts of her parents' untimely deaths, it brought up the memory of the time a few months later when they put much of her parent's things to good use.
It was a long night prior for us as our darling children all had caught their cousin Brandon's cold. It didn't help that the moving van would soon be pulling up to pack the boxes and furniture to move it across town. The items that had been in storage since Edward arrived home from Washington were already at our new home, now it was simply time to get everything settled.
I had finally settled into a restful sleep when I heard the light tapping of my son's feet. "Mama, Linda got sick on the floor." The soft whine was so heartbreaking coming from my 3-year-old.
"I'll come and clean it up. Your mama's sleeping, little man."
I smiled as I felt Edward begrudgingly roll out of bed and follow my son, only to hear the "Oh my God," a minute later that woke Kathleen from her crib at the foot of our bed.
Getting up myself, I looked at the clock to see it was 4:30. Realizing there wasn't much point in trying to sleep; I went into the kitchen and started some coffee. When Kathleen was finally back in her crib, I stripped our bed and put them in the hamper that I was brining to the new house to do our first load of laundry in our brand new appliances. It was such a joy to have new things that were truly what Edward and I wanted.
I could hear the tub and knew that Linda was probably a mess, so I collected the sheets from the kids' room along with their clothes and sat everything by the door. It was a sad thing to look at the our first home together and see it all boxed up, but the new home was truly ours and it was something we could grow into, with four large bedroom, so having siblings share a room wouldn't be as hard as it was now.
It was a sad thing to think of all the benefits that came from it, but my parents' passing and the sale of their home and car in Washington meant we had been able to get a house that was nicer than what we had originally thought of and left us with a nice little nest egg to boot.
Edward walked into the kitchen for his coffee and smiled at me, knowing what was on my mind. "It'll be okay, sweetheart. Most of the things here will not be coming with us and with our family's help we will be moved in in no time."
I sighed and melted into his side as he squeezed my shoulder. Edward and his parents had been handling most of the preliminary work at the new house, like painting and such because I was home with the kids, so I would be seeing some of these changes for the first time this morning.
A knock disturbed our revelry as Edward went to let in his parents. Edward and Carlisle were going to be directing traffic at the apartment so they were still close to the store if they were needed, while Esme and I were going to be in charge at the new house. The kids were going to Alice and Jasper's so there wouldn't be any problems with the children getting under foot.
With the kids safely away, we began with my laundry so the stains wouldn't set and then waited for the truck to arrive, putting away a few suitcases of the kids' clothes while we waited as they had new furniture in the new house as, for the moment at least, they were all getting their own rooms.
When the truck arrived, we were able to maneuver everything where it needed to go and then were left alone as the truck pulled away, the boys now helping out at the store so they could come over early from work.
Esme and I got the children's rooms done before lunch and then we moved to the kitchen, knowing that dinner would have to be prepared tonight. When the guys showed up that afternoon, we were arranging little knick knacks in the living room, my clothes having found their home, but Edward's still in his suitcases as he was particular about them. It was truly a blessing that so much had been done in the lead up to the move, because I was exhausted and didn't want to think about tomorrow when I would be completing the bathrooms and the remainder of the living room and bedroom without the extra set of hands.
Esme and Carlisle stayed for dinner and Alice came over with the kids, Jasper not arriving until it was nearly time to leave. I was exhausted when I climbed the stairs; putting the kids to bed and settling Kathleen in the room next door, still not certain I liked her being so far away.
Walking into the bedroom, Edward was finally finished with his things and had surprised me by hanging up a few of the photos that I wanted up, giving me one less chore for the next day.
Climbing into bed next to him, Edward curled up to me and sighed as he took a whiff of my hair. "Welcome home, Mrs. Cullen."
Isabella smiled fondly as they collected their bags. The clubs and the length of the walk starting to wear on Johnny's younger kids in the same spot it usually did for the young caddies in this event. A cheer from ahead alerted them to the good shot of Phil Michelson, who was a few groups ahead of them playing with Emmett, who had also been asked to go to the festivities this year.
Walking the few short feet to the sixth green, Bella prepared herself for another attempt over DeSoto Springs Pond, her mind once again drifting to the young man playing with her.
Edward had been pacing for a good hour and a half and he was beginning to give me a headache. "Darling, sit down. Your grandson won't come any sooner for your pacing."
He stopped at my words and sat beside me, a soft chuckle coming from Kate who sat holding hands with Garrett. We would have never guessed it 24 years ago that our friend on that fateful weekend would turn out to be family to us, their sweet Patty marrying Joseph.
The two of them had been in the delivery room for a few hours, which only seemed to truly worry Edward as he had such a hard time during my pregnancies, you would have thought he was the one who had given birth.
We were still sitting in the waiting room three hours later when he fully lost it. "Bella, they move you into the delivery room when you're close and she's been in there for five, what if something is wrong, they would have no reason to tell us."
"If something was wrong, they would have kicked Joseph out so he wouldn't upset Patty, he'd be here freaking out because he couldn't be with his wife…nothing is wrong, it's just a long birth. It runs in Katie's family." We both turned to Garrett, only to see the intense look on his face; he knew this from experience. Kate had a difficult delivery and wasn't able to have more children after Patty, so if anyone would have an idea about when we should worry it would be them. That seemed to calm Edward for a while.
Another hour and Joseph came running into the waiting room with his father's million-watt crooked smile. "He's perfect; Jonathan Robert Cullen is absolutely perfect."
We all jumped up and hugged him as he brought us back to the private room that Patty and Johnny had been moved to. Walking into the room, we all exploded into a series squeals as Patty smiled weakly at us. For a few minutes, we spoke to her and took turns with our grandson. When Garrett passed him to me, I sat in one of the plastic chairs and Edward crouched next to me and beamed at us.
"You're a beautiful grandmother, love." His lips brushed my shoulder as I cradled the tiny bundle of joy to me. It was the happiest moment in my life up until that point…I was a grandma.
"Gram?" Bella turned to see Johnny behind her. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Yes Johnny, thank you for asking."
He leaned down to whisper so the galleries wouldn't hear. "You've been really thoughtful today, like something's bothering you."
"It's just been a long time since I've played like this and it's bringing back a lot of memories. I promise you, everything is fine."
"As long as you're sure. What do you say we ruin the rest of this walk?"
Bella laughed at just how much he was like his grandfathers as they turned towards the seventh tee and the last of the holes to not play over the water. They met up to Edward where he was talking to his great grandchildren, the thought on his mind written across his face.
It was a cold November morning, but otherwise the weather was perfect for a wedding. It was hard to believe it, but today our little Barbara was getting married, leaving Bella and I with an empty nest. My little girl was getting married today and I wasn't ready.
My darling wife thought it was adorable how pathetic I was acting, but from the time I was little, I'd always put my family first. It started with my sister, even when the man she chose was my war buddy, then with my Isabella. I had been drawn to her from the moment I rounded the pro shop at the Country Club and I never turned back. Once our children were born, it was a completely different feeling, I was their protector, their guardian and nothing would stop me from being there for them. But now that my little girl was grown up, I didn't know how to deal with the change in my position.
It was Bella emerging from the bathroom in her slip that shook me from my thoughts and curled the side of my lip. Five children and 35 years did nothing to diminish her beauty, or my need for her. I stood from the foot of the bed and wrapped my arms around her waist, my chin resting on her shoulder.
"You're a beauty, Mrs. Cullen. Any chance I might be able to get some private time with you before the excitement begins?"
Bella laughed at me and shook her head. "Sorry, Mr. Cullen, but if you're a good boy you'll remember that we're coming home to a completely empty house tonight."
Her innuendo was enough to ignite the fire as well as calm me into being as good as I could. The soft knock at the door broke us apart as Barbara walked in.
"I didn't mean to interrupt, but I need help getting my dress on if we're going to be on time to the church."
Bella smiled and followed her out as I put my tuxedo on and waited to get in the limo. Barbara had chosen her two sisters as well as Pam, her new sister-in-law, as her bridesmaids and they were now buzzing around upstairs as well.
Soon the door to her room opened and I heard the sound of several pairs of heels coming down the stairs, the last being Barbara in her stunning lace and silk gown. I walked over to her, taking her into my arms as I kissed her forehead. "You're a vision, just like your mother was at our wedding."
"Daddy, stop, I don't want to cry and mess up my make-up."
I laughed hard at her aunt's influence on her and took her hand as we walked out to the limo.
In no time, we were walking into the church as Bella left us to take her seat. The bridesmaids lined up with their groomsmen and started down the aisle as Barbara clung to my arm. "Don't let me trip, dad."
That brought another smile to my face, so like her mother. "I think we're up, bumble B."
She blushed at her old nickname as the music changed and we began our march. The walk to the altar was a lot shorter than I would have liked, but soon I was handing her over to her husband. As she tipped up to kiss my cheek, she whispered. "Thank you daddy, I love you."
I whispered an "I love you" and took a seat next to Bella. The ceremony was beautiful and in no time, my daughter was in my arms again as we shared our father/daughter dance. For that three and a half minutes we were the same as we were when she was three and I twirled her around our living room, or when she was fifteen and I taught her how to dance before her sweet sixteen. She was my baby and she always would be.
Edward followed behind Isabella and Johnny as they walked around the trees separating the 7th green from the 8th tee, and for the first time in a few holes was able to look at the leaderboard. It was a relief that it wouldn't be something that would worry his Bella, as even in personal games the score would stress her to the point where Edward not only refused to use a scorecard, but he also took to distracting her in delicious and evil ways, if you were ever to ask her.
But with that weight off her mind as her age surely kept her out of contention, he had no issue pulling her aside to show her his discovery.
"My dear, I think we may have another champion in the family."
Bella looked to Edward as he nodded in the direction of the scoreboard and gasped at the sight before her. At the top of the leaderboard, with a two-stroke lead going into the last two holes, was their own Johnny Cullen.
It brought tears to her eyes to see her beloved grandson so close to his second win, his first being the PGA Tour win that won him his spot here at the Masters. She wasn't even bothered that no one had ever won the Par 3 contest and then continued on to win the Masters the same weekend, because now that his outlook on a career in golf had changed, there was plenty of time for that. Even if once upon a time, he was against the idea.
Edward and I were spending a quiet evening at home, our kids having just left town that morning after coming in to visit Johnny and his very pregnant wife, Taylor.
Out of all of our children and grandchildren, Johnny stayed close, working at the original family store while playing as much golf as his schedule allowed. When his training seemed to take a more serious turn, I placed a call to Garrett, knowing that he would know the best way to get him ready for the tour.
Johnny kept saying that he didn't want to spend that kind of time away from his growing family, and that with all the potential for it not to work out, he would never ask Taylor to give up her position at the law firm to follow him on the tour.
It was a little sad for Garrett to see his talent not used as it could be, but I understood the desire to put his family ahead of the game, after all, I did it without ever looking back.
He was 20 years old; there was plenty of time for him to make these types of decisions. I was just glad to have him a few miles away…that boy was my heart and he knew it.
The day had been long and just after we turned in, the phone rang. Rolling over to get it, I reached over and picked it up as Edward mumbled something about never getting a good night's sleep. I picked up the handset and pressed the button as I brought it to my ear. "Hello?"
"Gram? You weren't asleep, were you? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, it's just…"
I sat up, rubbing my free hand over my face. "What is it Johnny? We just laid down, don't worry about it. Is Taylor okay?"
I heard him chuckle and could almost see his smile. "Taylor's fine, and so is your great-granddaughter."
"She had the baby?" My exclamation woke Edward as he sat up next to me, craning in to hear Johnny from the phone I now held between us.
"Yes she did, Margaret Isabella Cullen was born at 9:42pm."
I hadn't heard their name choices as Taylor wanted it to be a surprise, so hearing that she was named after me started the waterworks. Edward placed a kiss on my temple as he pulled me against him. "You did good, son. Now go spend some quality time with your wife and daughter and we'll come by in the morning. Congratulations."
"You too Pops." The line disconnected and Edward sat the phone down and pulled me close as we laid back down.
"We're lucky people, Bella. We've lived to see our great-grandchildren and are still young enough to enjoy it. What do you say we go to bed so we can wake up tomorrow and see if that little angel is as lovely as her namesake?"
I giggled at his sweetness and drifted off to sleep thinking of another baby I'd get to spoil.
Now that they were both aware of his chance at winning, Bella and Edward watched as he parred the 8th hole, bringing his lead down to one with a final hole to play. As they were in the last group, something that the TV producers had done so that they could have crews following all the favorites as well as the few all-time greats who had been invited to join them, the result of this final hole would determine if Johnny won. As long as he didn't bogey the final trip over Ike's Pond, he'd win the Par 3 contest.
Isabella took her first shot and was happy to see it reach the other side. Johnny's turn landed him a little further away, as he had too much spin on the ball, but it was still a salvageable shot. Now having to make the walk to the other side in view of the world, Johnny simply linked arms with his grandmother and walked with her like it was any other day.
It was a surprisingly mild February as we prepared for the huge 50th Anniversary party that our children had planned. If it had been up to me we would have had a nice dinner out and called it a day, but Edward agreed with our children that we, or I, should be celebrated at any opportunity and this was a perfect excuse for a family reunion. JR was handling the planning on this end, as he was the only one close enough to visit the venue, which was the large ballroom at Beech Knoll Country Club, the very room in which Edward and I shared our first dance at the closing ball 51 years ago.
My Johnny was being truly sneaky which was unlike him, and even my normal tactics weren't working as far as getting him to budge. It was moments like this that I wished that Esme and Carlisle were still with us, my beloved Esme would have wheedled it out of him. Losing her two years ago was a heavy blow for the Cullen family. Even though she lived to be 94, we were all shocked by her passing, but none more than Carlisle, who followed her within the month.
It was a little morbid to think this way, but at 71, it wasn't so far off to imagine one's own end, and if I could choose it, that would be how I would want to go. Peacefully, and with Edward not far behind me, because I could not dream of heaven without him there beside me.
Those types of thoughts were not with me long as Alice brought me out to lunch and then to find a dress fit for a great-grandmother to dance in. After a little searching, we found a scoop neck dress in mocha, with silver accents that was perfect for the occasion.
As the date of the party approached, I felt a little silly, but it was worth it the evening of as Edward helped me clasp my necklace on and smiled at our reflection in the mirror. "Happy Anniversary, my darling Bella. You're as lovely today as you were the day we met."
I smiled a watery smile to his reflection as I reached to my waist to take his hand. "Ever the charmer, Mr. Cullen. Now, what do you say we go get this show on the road?"
Edward laughed heartily at my reluctance to be the center of attention as we headed downstairs to the town car that Johnny had reserved for us, knowing I'd balk at a limo.
The drive wasn't that long and it was soon that we turned down that familiar lane that led to the clubhouse, the years turning back along with it. I was mesmerized by the decorations as we walked in. There was a large photo of Edward and I from the paper on the day I won the US Open. We were side by side, as he walked me from the final hole to the clubhouse, our bodies pressed close by the crowd that surrounded us, somehow the number of people there camouflaged the fact that we would have been even closer if it wasn't for our audience. There was also a large photo collage of us with our family, which now included five children, eighteen grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Johnny was waiting for us outside, a huge smile on his face. "Don't kill me guys, my aunts can be pretty persistent when it comes to things." We laughed as he pushed open the doors and the DJ announced us.
It was surreal being back there with our friends and family, back where it all began. Walking in, we were met by hugs and smiles as we made the rounds before sitting down for the meal. The food, as always, was delicious, and soon the opening chords to that familiar song began as Edward held out his hand to me.
Dancing with him to "Unforgettable" was just that, as a half-century of treasured memories was bookended by two dances to the same song, our song.
The rest of the evening was filled with stories of us over the years, happy and sad times, memories old and new, but always tales of our love and devotion, and the example it had set for our children and grandchildren to aspire to.
It was during one of my dances with Johnny that I got one of the best presents of the evening. It was at that moment that he told me that Taylor and he had talked about it and he was going to make a try for being a professional golfer. He was giving it five years, and if he couldn't win his spot on the tour by then, he'd come back to the family business, but if he did make it, I was his main source of inspiration. That did me in as the tears started and I clung to him, so happy that with two champion Golfers for grandparents, he looked up to me as much, if not a little more than he did Garrett, who was the first to admit that my story was the more phenomenal one.
I couldn't release the excitement as Edward and I went home from the party, cuddling up with him as my mind wandered to Johnny's future achievements.
Isabella lined up her putt and sank it, earning a respectable score for the round. Now, the crowd was focused on JR Cullen, the tension filling the air. Bella and Edward stood to the side with his children, waiting to see him make history.
It was an eternity in the moment it took him to line everything up and then draw his stroke back, hitting the ball and sending it towards the cup. It seemed to lose a little steam as it approached, but the telltale clink of the ball hitting the bottom of the hole sent the crowd into an uproar, cameras flashing and people cheering as Johnny ran to his grandmother, swinging her gently through the air before hugging his grandfather and being tackled by his three children.
The press was all over him, but he just smiled and went in to sign his card and make the round official. It was in that moment that the reporters turned to Isabella, asking for her statement.
"JR comes from a family of golfers and we were as happy with his decision to follow this path as we were with every decision he's made before it. It's a wonderful thing to be here to see it, as I was last year when he won the US Open and I cannot wait to see all that his future holds for him. He's not only a great golfer, but also an exceptional man, and I'm proud to call him my grandson. It was an honor to play with him today."
With his hand on her lower back, Edward led Isabella away from the crowds and into the clubhouse, where she could wait to congratulate her grandson in private.