Today is Father’s Day. Like the past four or five Father’s Days (and Mother’s Days), I’m at least a thousand miles away from my dad. Thank goodness for phones, right?
Three years ago, in 2008, I was the editor of Philmont Scout Ranch‘s internal staff newsletter. It was a weekly production with a skeleton staff, but I was and am proud of how we recruited other staff throughout the camp to write weekly columns, encouraged and published submissions and injected our own voices into the newsletter.
In the final full issue, I summed up three of my favorite memories from what proved to be my last summer at the ranch. One of those memories is of my dad’s and my hike up Wheeler Peak — New Mexico’s tallest peak, at 13,161 feet above sea level.
There’s a lot I could write about my dad. After all, we’ve known each other for 23 and a half years. But I’ll let the text of this reflection — copied out below — say it all.
Clouds are brewing overhead, but it’s a cool, windswept day near the treeline of Wheeler Peak. My dad has been having trouble since before we reached Williams Lake, and has had to stop after every 10 feet of gained altitude. Even though my friends have gone on ahead and I’d love to reach the top in record time, I remain with my father, making him drink water and eat energy-loaded dried fruit and encouraging him.
My dad and I have never been very close. We didn’t really start getting along until after I graduated from high school. And I’ve never been one prone to give words of comfort. I’d like to think I’m a motherly figure of sorts — I love cooking for and helping out friends and family — but encouragement is not my strongest suit. I’m really struggling with trying to keep my father from collapsing altogether, in body and in spirit.
We’re out of the treeline and almost to the snowbank that separates the skreefield from the rest of the slope, when my dad has to stop again.
“You’re doing great, Dad,” I say, and we pound fists.
“You’re a good girl, Christine,” he says. I’m a little startled at his use of my full name — it’s something he does only when in earnest.
“I try,” I say, trying to keep it lighthearted.
“No — you are,” he says, and I suddenly remember all the times he’s told my brothers and me, “Do not try; do.”
“You’re a good daughter,” he then says.
My dad never made it to the top. He finally stopped after we crossed the snowbank, and told me to go on ahead. But it means so much to me that he tried so hard.
Happy Dad Day, Dad. I’ll see you in a few weeks.
(On an egalitarian note, I wish I’d written up something about/for my mom. Next year, Mom. Next year.)