The Journey



My dad, Wesley Dunn, 77, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in January 2007. He underwent a risky and highly invasive surgery called the Whipple Procedure (after the late Dr. Allen Whipple.) Thanks to the support, dedication and research of those who have battled pancreatic cancer in the past the Whipple is safer than ever before and can add years to a patient's life. But it is not a cure and only 4% of those who are diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer survive five years. Having watched my dad battle this disease for almost two years, it is hard to believe he is one of the lucky ones, but the average life expectancy for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is only 6 to 9 months.

I can't imagine what its like to lose a parent or a loved one that quickly and am very grateful for the extra time our family has had together. Obviously those close to a person battling disease feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and we each try to cope and offer support in our own ways. This journey is my way of coping. It is a way for me to honor my father, do my small part to help fund pancreatic cancer research and hopefully make a few people smile along the way.

Ultimately Golf My Way Home is a celebration of life and if there is one lesson I've learned from hitchhiking across the country its that despite all of our apparent differences there is much more that unites us than divides us and we really can count on each other. It is true that I am an optimist and a dreamer so maybe I made it all the way across the continent - 125 rides and 6211 miles - on a wing and a prayer. But maybe there's a lesson in that too... the power of believing something is possible. 

The Caddie Yard is dedicated to those who literally "carried my bag" (picked me up) and includes individual descriptions of all of my rides including some stories from the most interesting and inspirational ones. I broke the trip down into a series of Maps so you can follow my exact route and see where I was picked up, region by region. I am in the process of writing reviews of each of the 37 Courses I played along the way. 

Thank you to all of you who have supported this project and welcome to those visiting for the first time. 

The physical journey may be over, but the project is ongoing. A book is in the works.

sincerely, 

John Dunn 



In Loving Memory of Charles Wesley Dunn Jr. (July ll, 1931 - May 23, 2009)

(Mom and Dad last fall)

June 5, 2009
Thank you to all who attended today's service and to all who have given their love and support to my father and our family through this long, difficult time. Your letters, phone calls, visits, flowers, cookies, etc. have been a constant reminder of the boundless capacity of the human spirit and the incredible value of friendship and community. 

Please find below, the words I spoke and the poem I read at St Paul's  today.

Late on the night before my father died when he would normally fall asleep, he became very nervous and restless. I dared not to think it then, but in hindsight I knew that was the last time I was going to see him alive. He had been very, very sick for many weeks, but he just seemed different that night. I can only describe his state as being “in between worlds.”

He was drifting in and out of “consciousness,” but at one point he held my hand tightly, looked me very seriously in the eyes and asked me if I knew where he was going and how he was supposed to get there. He also asked me if he could borrow some money for the journey; which just goes to show that even at the very end you haven’t seen it all. Our roles had finally, completely reversed.
But I felt helpless because I couldn’t give him an answer. Sitting there beside his hospital bed with his hand in mine was as far as I was able to go with him. I could only adjust his pillows a little and tell him to try to get some sleep.

I chose this poem, from a collection that was given to me by mother many years ago, because it really captures how I often felt in the final months and days of my father’s life. And also how I imagine he might have felt when he became a father and didn’t have all the answers for two inquisitive young sons. It speaks to me of the limits of how far we can walk together before each of us must continue the journey alone, in this world and the next.

It also speaks of the distance we travel together and the things we have in common. I feel blessed that my father lived as long as he did after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because we ended up spending so much time together over the past two years and I realize now more than ever how much we truly do have common.

Directions
by Billy Collins

You know the brick path in back of the house,
the one you see from the kitchen window,
the one that bends around the far end of the garden
where all the yellow primroses are?
And you know how if you leave the path
and walk up into the woods you come
to a heap of rocks, probably pushed
down during the horrors of the Ice Age,
and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now
against the light brown fallen leaves?
And farther on, you know
the small footbridge with the broken railing
and if you go beyond that you arrive
at the bottom of that sheep’s head hill?
Well if you start climbing, and you
might have to grab hold of a sapling
when the going gets steep,
you will eventually come to a long stone
ridge with a border of pine trees
which is as high as you can go
and a good enough place to stop.

The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light puring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.

Still let me know before you set out.
Come knock on my door
and I will walk with you as far as the garden
with one hand on your shoulder.
I will even watch after you and not turn back
to the house until you disappear
into the crowd of maple and ash,
heading up toward the hill,
piercing the ground with your stick.