You were never much of a hunter. Pheasants, yes. Squirrels and chipmunks, I suppose, when you were younger. But you never came home from a weekend away with a buck in the bed of your truck, because you never had much interest in deer opener and you owned a sedan. I imagine some people from other places can hardly conceive of a Midwestern man without a shotgun over his mantle, a closet full of blaze-orange jackets, a copy of Field and Stream next to the john. And yet when I think of you, I do see an outdoorsman. I see you paying attention to landscapes, to the clouds. I see you teaching me to love the world.
Remember the leaf piles in Autumn? The way you would dive into them just like me? Remember the way you tied one end of a strong rope to the front of my winter sled and the other around your waist, and proceeded to tote me behind you as you cross-country skied? Remember the snow castles? The trips to the lake? The canoe fishing? The toads and turkeys and garter snakes and robins and muskrats and owls and caterpillars you'd point out, whispering?
My favorite times were when you'd drive all of us out of town on an early spring or late fall day. You'd stop along some gravel road, within some stretch of wooded hills. You'd sling a backpack over your shoulder full of canteens and saltine crackers and licorice. We'd go hiking. Often we'd follow the trails deep into the woods, so deep that the only sounds were nature sounds, the only smells were of wet or dry earth. When we veered off them, it was because you urged us to, or you'd taught us to, because you wanted to see the valley from a higher place, and soon enough we wanted to know what was down by that stream.
When you leaped up onto old fallen logs, walked across them like an acrobat, arms gracefully extended, we felt ourselves the luckiest children to have you.
And once -- deer opener a week away, the air crisp -- you stopped mid-step ahead of me and slowly dropped to your knees. "Em," you whispered, "look." I hunched down beside you as quietly as I could and followed your finger with my eyes. There, at the top of the ridge-line, were three white-tailed deer, one a seven-point buck. I felt a certain bigness in that moment, and I felt your hand on my back.
Photo Credit: huntfishguide.
More from parenting