Monday, June 19, 2017

My Captain Fantastic


I am a father to two great kids.  They’re both smart and funny and not very likely to be able to find a pair of clean socks in their rooms if their lives depended on it.  They’re thoughtful and helpful and they are well behaved with good manners.  Well, the little one falls short sometimes, but I think her age contributes, and then again, when she’s good she’s really good.
 
I am uncle to some great kids, too.  I can’t take full credit for how they’re turning out, but I can take a lot.  I’ve taken them rock climbing, mountain biking, paddling, hiking, and dirt digging.  So yeah, I’m kind of a good dad/uncle.
 

Dirty kids are the best kids
 
They were miserable that summer they spent with us
When I was younger I wanted to have a big family.  I wanted a lot of kids.  I was the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family so I was used to having a lot of younger kids running around.  And then we had Boone.  Boone was a great baby.  And he was a funny and interesting kid.  We decided one was enough.  For me, it was more overwhelming to have a kid than I had expected and suddenly the thought of having a whole slew running around chanting “Dad, dad, dad, dad, dad! DAD!” was too much.  Boone was going to be an only child.  And then my lovely wife began chanting in my ear: “If we’re going to have any more kids we should do it soon…you’re getting old!”  And so Lily Bean came along.
Attempted family bikepacking trip near Colorado Springs
When we lived in Colorado we were tight as a family.  We did almost everything together.  It would have been hard not too; we were a one car family and we didn’t know a lot of people for the kids to visit while Mandy and I went off on our own.  We became good at family adventures.  They were hard but rewarding.  We biked, climbed, hiked, and summited mountains together. We took up geocaching.  We visited cool towns all over Colorado and saw a lifetime worth of incredible things in five short years.
Climbing in the South Platte


Hiking in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Taking a break from mountain biking at Vedauwoo, WY
Then we moved back to Kentucky.  Since moving back we’ve tried to maintain that sense of adventure and wonder, but to be perfectly honest we’ve not been as tight as a family.  Mandy and I do run off by ourselves more and leave the kids with family and friends.  We don’t do as much with the niece and nephews.  All of that hard work it took to do big kid-friendly adventures isn’t mandatory anymore and I avoid it if at all possible.
Bean riding the Dawkins Line Rail Trail

The boys enjoying their first backpacking trip a couple of years ago
Long time readers may already be doing the math and realize that my bouts with depression and anxiety and chronic lack of self-esteem have driven me more inward and away from the world.  That includes my family.  I’ve chosen to hide and run away into the woods alone more often than not over the past couple of years.  It’s not that we haven’t had family adventures, but a lot of times I’ve chosen to adventure alone hoping to improve my mental health and not cause myself more stress by including everyone else.  I’m not saying these were wise choices, just that they were the ones I’ve been making.
For Fathers Day we were going to go out and have a big family adventure.  On Saturday I went out and did some scouting for a new mountain bike route.  And on Sunday we were going to go have fun.  Bean requested rock climbing, and that’s the direction I was leaning.  Unfortunately some kind of leaning threw my back out of whack and I felt pretty wretched on Sunday.  We made a lazy day of it and didn’t get out in the woods. 
In a short time we’re going to be going to Colorado for a visit.  We’re all looking forward to it, and nephew Ty has requested mountain biking at Valmont in Boulder and Bean wants to rock climb while we’re there.  I’m going to entertain whatever of their requests that I can.  I’ve decided I’ve been letting too much time slip away waiting for better conditions, better circumstances, and for me to feel better myself.  Today is the best.  Maybe tomorrow will be better and maybe it won’t.  All we have is today.
Mandy and I profess that we won’t be sad empty nesters, but I am now feeling the distinct urge to knuckle down and give my kids more of the great experiences I think they’ll remember for a lifetime. 
Recently Mandy and I watched Captain Fantastic.  I have to confess...I had fantasized about living that type of life with my family when I was younger.  Off the grid, well educated kids, quirky and odd... We did pretty good for living on the grid.  And maybe it was for the best considering the things I've discovered about myself in the intervening years since I dreamed about having that slew of kids.
My two are the only slew I need.  I have the best family.  Immediate, extended, and adopted through proximity and friendship... My life is full of great people.
They got me a Walz cycling cap and a cool bikey tee for Father's Day...
 
Addendum (this was my feeble attempt at a Father's Day post on my dad's Facebook wall):
My dad taught me to dry off top to bottom to avoid having to do extra work. He taught me not to drive with cruise control on in the rain, to keep my eyes on the road, and the key concept of responsibility that if I hit something with my car it's my fault.

He gave up his own time so I could enjoy Boy Scouts even when I didn't act like I appreciated it. He worked a second job so I'd have spending money when I went away to college (and I'm sure just to pay tuition) but didn't disown me when I dropped out.

Yes, he sent me looking for tools "somewhere in the basement" but he also taught me how to fix leaky pipes, change my own oil, and use a chainsaw. He and mom helped me realize my dream to be a climbing guide.

I've had a lot of good memories with my dad. There were all of those scout trips which shaped who I am today. There was that time we picked up the safe in Bath County that we didn't have a combination for in a truck we didn't own and then the headlights shorted out as we drove through Mt Sterling at dusk. We paddled the Red and the Three Forks of the Kentucky. We ran an outdoor business together. And before that a recycling business.

Whenever I have a question about how to fix something around the house or whatever, dad has a practical answer for me. Dad is unflappable and always seems to keep his head when things are going crazy. I get that from him.

My life would have been a lot different without my dad in it and I'm thankful for him.

Happy Fathers Day!

 

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