Monday, August 04, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Fatherhood, Pt. 2

I think I am a hero to my boys today.

I cannot quite get them to articulate it, but I'm getting the feeling of increased adoration.

You see, I took them camping this weekend. Just the Boys. None of those icky girl-folk around. Just Men, both aging and pre-pubescent.

I am still suffering for it, but it was definitely worth it to see the sparkle in their eyes.

I was doing some more thinking last week about my father. There will be some regrets when he passes, unfortunately. Hopefully not as many as there could have been, because I am trying to rectify some of the lost time. There are some things, however, that time has effectively stolen from me.

I will look back and see times when I was too "busy" or too "proud" (or too "bored") to do things with my father. I will also look back and see a few times when he was too "busy" to do something. Not many, but a few.

Camping is one of those things.

I never got to do a lot of real tent-camping with my father. Most of what I learned about tent-camping was as a Boy Scout. The sad thing is that my father has a lot he could have shared with me. He underwent rigorous survival training when he was in the Service. He grew up around some of the best Scouts I've ever known in my Grandfather and uncles.

I have never really benefitted from any of that knowledge.

You'll remember as I wrote last week that the one time he went to Scout Camp with me I was embarrassed by how he lectured us all on the finer points of something-or-other. Yeah, as I said, not one of my prouder moments.

Anyway, as I was sitting and thinking all these wonderfully depressing thoughts last week, I remembered a Church magazine article I read just before I graduated from high school. It may have been the Ensign or the New Era, I cannot remember exactly. I wish I could remember the author. What I remember is the image: the author said something to the effect of "picture a man and his sons as they walk to their tents, sharing feelings and memories." I remember the gist of it, because I remember being a senior in high school and thinking: That's something I've never experienced with Father.

Even "Fathers and Sons" outings were missed, as they were always held "too far away." I've never been to one. Not one.

Don't get me wrong: I clearly own a good portion of the blame, maybe even most of the blame. When I was younger, I was an ungrateful snot at times. I lacked the vision I have now and didn't realize what I would miss when he was gone. I am not proud of any of it and I will reap the whirlwind some day.

All that being said, I decided last week that I was going to surprise my boys. I used that surprise as leverage to buy their good attitudes and behavior for their poor mother all week long. When Friday's lunchtime rolled around, there was some doubt as to whether my oldest son would be joining us. Let's just say he wasn't honoring his mother or siblings to the level that I would expect him to do.

I overruled his mother, however, and raced home from the office to throw the bare necessities into the van. The small tent went in. Duffel bags for the boys. A few books for bedtime reading for Dad. The Coleman lantern and a couple flashlights. The food I took was already prepared and wouldn't take much time to get ready to eat.

That was it.

My LW and the rest of the Horde were jealous, but it was Just The Boys. I loaded them up and we headed to a nearby park that allows camping along some backwoods jogging trails.

And my boys got to experience what I never did. Walking at sunset from the restrooms the quarter-mile or so back to our tents, all of us with our arms around each other. We talked about the sunset, the burgeoning dark and slowly-appearing stars. As we sat in the small tent on the slowly leaking queen-size mattress we spoke of the day's experiences and ended with a prayer to our Heavenly Father.

Of course, Dad couldn't sleep: I tried to do some writing, but from the lantern-light my youngest inferred that it was now playtime. Reading was out for the same reason. So there I lay, playing a stupid game on my cell-phone in the dark, listening to my boys snoring. Laying in an over-crowded tent on an unseasonably warm summer night with my boys' random limbs draped over my legs, back, and head. There was no breeze to relieve and all the day's heat was trapped in the tent. I was miserable.

But I was happy.

And so were they.

In the August 2008 Ensign President Thomas S. Monson prays, "May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business...." As I read the Ensign on Sunday that line jumped out at me. Good, timely counsel from the Prophet.

Ours wasn't a long camping trip. We weren't even that far from home. We did some walking, but otherwise just killed some time sitting and talking. It wasn't anything fancy.

I am afraid that I will have some regrets. But after this weekend, I am hoping there will be fewer regrets than there could have been.

It wasn't a long camping trip. But it was a good one, a special one.

Just the kind I wish I could share with my Father.

Just once more.

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