Father’s day out

Dad, can you wait for me to take you out on a walk?” My seven-year-old son looked up at me expectantly. His eyebrows were arched over his brown eyes and his close-cropped hair was sticking out in three different directions.

“Can ya, Dad? Just fifteen minutes,” he pleaded with a sweet smile. I looked away from my e-mail and smiled at Eric. “Sure, but hurry up and get your homework done. You need to do good on your spelling test”. “I know! I will.” He shuffled off to his room and I remembered the same advice my parents gave to me years ago. About twenty minutes later he is finally done writing out those words and I grab my hat and sunglasses and head for the door. He’s hurrying behind, but just as I get to the door he calls out. “Wait! I need to bring my flag along!”

I pause and murmur, ok! And wait on the sidewalk leading from the front door. Eric comes running back holding his chequered race flag. As we head across the front lawn and towards the break in the wall that leads to the path around the floodplains, I find myself smiling at the colourful New Mexico spring sky — blue, grey and white spread out in a mixture of thin stratus and billowing thunderheads. The Sandia Mountains tower majestically, as always. We start a brisk walk, bent into the wind that is blowing strong enough to give Eric a challenge in holding onto his waving flag. “Hey, Dad! Are these staples stronger than the regular ones?” He’s pointing at the staples his Mom recently used to reattach his flag to the wooden stick. I examine them more closely. “Yes, I think so, son.” “Good”, he grins. “I wouldn’t want it to come off!” With newfound confidence, he waves the flag back and forth as we trudge down the dirt path past backyard walls and onto the hill that rises to the top of a gravelly access road. It is really built for foot traffic and bikes, but occasionally a city truck will travel on it. Not to mention the dogs and horses.

More than once I will steer Eric out of the way of bird droppings. We come to a steep incline and climb past the big boulders to the top. We both are breathing hard. At the top of the road we have a quarter mile or so to the other side of the floodplain and the wind is the strongest here. I have to steady my hat a couple of times and my son’s flag is going great guns. Eric wonders why I walk so fast. I’m wondering why I have to slow down so much. No worries, it is good to be together, father and son time. Why I don’t spend more time doing this? I thought. Usually my walks are a quiet time for me while still getting a cardiovascular workout. Yesterday after work I walked and refused to let Eric come along, as he wasn’t done with chores or homework. He can delay more than any wily Washington Senator on a full-blown filibuster. He cried and wailed that it wasn’t fair, but he obviously held onto the promise that he could accompany me today if he did his work first.

Questions come frequently and they are often mixed with his odd comments. “Why are there so many trees down there? That’s a baby tree. Who cut down those weeds? Look, that weed is bigger than me! How come nobody cuts that one down?”My best answers aren’t sufficient. Sometimes I just nod, or say I don’t know, or comment how that’s interesting. Is God like this, too? We ask our silly questions because we don’t know better and God just smiles and nods?

The weather is warm and dry and along with blowing dust are moths and other flying insects. Eric waves his flag like a swatter and I have to use my hands to keep them away from my face. Starting to work up a sweat now. My breathing is a bit heavier, yet my heart is full towards bursting at this pleasant time together, marvelling at the beauty of Albuquerque. As beads of sweat appear on my forehead a smile creases my lips. As much as I enjoy solitary walks, having my little companion today is special. Can you look at life through the eyes of a child? Have you tried it lately?

Kids are much better at being “in the now”. No big concerns about tomorrow, certainly no stress over getting a big work project done for the boss or finding a way to make the mortgage payment, plenty of time for that later in life.

The gift for us, the one I received on this walk, is that we can set those concerns aside at least for a little while. Get outside, get some exercise, and be like a child. Some people say once you’ve lost your innocence you can’t get it back. I disagree. It’s there, waiting for you to discover it. My son gave it back to me.

“Hey Dad, wanna race to that tree? Come on! It’ll be fun!” “Ok, son. Ready... set... go!!” Laughing, wheezing and grinning like maniacs, we both arrive at the tree at the same time. Well, ok, I let him get there a second or two before me. “Wow, Eric. You sure run fast”. We put our arms around each other and head home.