Fatherhood: The best job in the world

Once in awhile, I’m given a moment that you think only exists in the minds of movie screenwriters.

This is a story of my son, who is a born adventurer. He enters fantasy lands of action adventure in the valleys and tracks of our neighbourhood. He likes to make a path, not find one.

So we were camping some time ago by a lake, and behind the campsite was a mountain (a hill). My son, who was nine at the time, asked if I would join him on a hike up the mountain. I agreed.

He got his little backpack ready (flashlight, knife, some food and water) and we ventured up.

Now the hill seemed quite daunting as we started up. The vegetation was scratchy, the soil loose, and there was some talk of rattlesnakes. I was somewhat skeptical, but once I saw the copious sharp cacti and large rocks covering the ground, I became a bit more vigilant. I was particularly concerned about poison ivy and such, as I was in shorts……

I told my son to stomp up and down as he hiked, and watch where he was stepping, lest he stick his foot into a cactus or worse.  I guided him to the ridges, where the vegetation was less dense than the valleys. We observed some strange insects, and I pointed out lichens growing on the rocks. I told him to beware of purple coloured berries, and we looked out for animal droppings.

The gradient steepened and we had been hiking for a good 30 minutes and he was tiring. I said “Only a little bit further over the first hump, and we’ll see how much more we need to go to the top.” He said OK. I took his backpack from him, and we kept going.

Sure enough, we could now see the summit, it seemed reachable, within our grasp.

As we got to the top, we turned around to see the path and distance we had taken, and were quite happy with ourselves.  I started singing the Rocky theme and together we punched our fists in the air. We called out below, waving our arms. No one heard. But we smiled together.

We peered over the edge of the summit, to the steep valleys below. I held onto him, steadied his footing.

“It’s a long way down, Dad.” he said quite seriously. I nodded.

As we descended, my son led the way, chose the path, warned me of upcoming cacti and other dangers and half-way down, we had a water break. I told him going down a hill is faster, but that an accident going down was harder to control, and to lower his centre of gravity.

We sat on a large rock, shared a drink of water, and my son turned to me:

“Dad. You know how you showed me what to watch out for, be careful of, which path to take?”

I nodded.

“And you kept me going, and encouraged me to get to the top, and to keep going?”

I started getting a sense, but what came out of his mouth, took me aback.

“And you told me what’s different about going up and going down?

He paused.

“Is that what you do Dad? Encourage me. Teach me. Help me? To know how to get somewhere? Point out what to watch out for? Is that what you do Dad?”

The breeze from the lake was blowing his hair gently, and I looked at his wonderful, curious, loving eyes.

And with a hint of a tear in my eye, I hugged him.

“Yes, son. That’s what a Dad does.  And that’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life.”

He leaned into me for a moment, broke away and stood up.

“C’mon Dad. This way.” he said with a smile.

Life is better than the movies.

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