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The AT: Appalachian Trail Thru-hike

Time is not your friend

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Today is my son’s birthday. Thirteen years flew by. Now, more than ever, I am looking forward to our upcoming “journey”. For a little while, 5 months or so, time will stall as we walk north towards Maine from Springer Mountain. At first, when relatives heard of our plan, they were a little shocked. “Drop everything and walk for two thousand miles? Why? Why would you do something like that? And you’re making him go along with you?”

I thought about those questions as we have gone through the planning stages. When the idea was born I looked at it from a logistical standpoint. The “how long”, “how much”, and the all encompassing “How is it done”. I found those issues to be easily solved, and not daunting in the least. Bailey sat down and came up with a budget for additional equipment, and I inventoried my stash. We began researching trail conditions and what other people were using, which resulted in some changes, but not many.

As far as my son goes, this was his idea. He had read “My Side of the Mountain” and “Hatchet”, we had gone hunting in a remote area, so it was only a matter of time before he felt some inclination to do something monumental. I will not make him go along with me. It is me who is going along with him. And that is the “Why”.

Thirteen years is not very long, if I consider what is behind me. Thirteen years ago I was a police. 9/11 caused thousands of innocent people to vanish. I sat in a room of a maternity wing as my wife was poked and prodded by nurses. After an eternity a doctor determined our son had to come out one way or another, and since the natural process was proving too risky we went to surgery. Our son was handed to me and I clutched him, shielded him, and held him over to his mother. We spent the next few minutes with nurses, I was the only parent he had available, and I was terrified. But the first few minutes of his life were spent with me, alone. He had nine months inside his Mom, and he was all hers. I took four or five minutes. Then we were all reunited. Those that have children understand the “all”. It means everybody that in some way is related.

I was there to take him fishing, but not his first day of school. I was there when his dog died, but not on Christmas Eve because I was working. I was the only one there when he was riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, and I picked him up when he lost it on a hill. I changed diapers, fished Power Rangers out of a toilet, and showed him the efficiency of peeing outside. I taught him to cast a fly, and shoot.

He taught me: It doesn’t matter if you eat Slim Jims in a tree stand, because a deer will show up regardless. Video games are still fun, you just have to play the right ones. Football can be fun, but it’s not the only way to enjoy yourself. Adults have weird expectations, and most of them are useless and cannot be rationalized.

The first Father’s Day gift I received was a watch. After years of owning time pieces that were made in China I finally received one that could be considered something to be careful about. Time. We should be more careful with it. I should be more careful with it. And that answers the “Why”.

In a short time I will have to teach him to maneuver a Chevy Silverado for the parallel parking portion of a drivers test. I will convince his mother everything is fine, while he is away with friends or a girl, and that we “raised him right”. I will keep all my fears contained until he comes home. In five years I will pack up a vehicle with clothes and other belongings, and drive to a university, where he will walk through the doors. Only to return on breaks that happen infrequently. I will go hunting, alone, and he will go to classes and parties. I will clean out a garage and call him, after he has moved out, to ask him if he wants any of the stuff I found (just as my mother did). Sentimentality will tug slightly, but not enough to warrant keeping decaying relics. I will probably bury his dog, who will pass from old age and overfeeding.

It defies logic to disregard opportunities to halt the press of time, and that is what we are doing. Stopping the clock for five months. Why am I going along? Walking through days of rain and cold, bugs and heat, body odor and taking a dump outside? I could just sit at home with my son and watch television. We could just hang out, like most people do. Wouldn’t that suffice? The thing is, we do that now. All of us do that. My parents did that with me. My wife’s parents did that with her. And time still went away. We still grew up, went to school, got jobs, got married, had kids. I’m sure they wondered where the time went. I don’t want to wonder where the time went. I want to know. I want to account for its passing, before he walks through doors of universities, and I bury another dog, and I start walking without him.



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