Every week on The Grateful Dad Radio Hour I offer a quick update called ‘The Full-Circle Fatherhood Report’ based on an essay I contributed to the Men’s Anthology titled Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives: Defining Moments and reflecting that I am a member of the ‘sandwich generation,’ caring for both my son and my dad. Here’s this week’s installment. My father never seemed to know what to make of my love of nature, the outdoors, and my quest for adventures there, but he was very supportive nonetheless. He bought me a backpack from Sears, a sleeping bag too, and my first pair of hiking boots with genuine Vibram® soles. He sprang for me to go on hiking trips sponsored by a group of three of my teachers whose side business was running those trips. And he left it to my stepmom to sew my name into my clothes to help me keep track of things on these trips.
Thinking back then, it was probably difficult, or at least bittersweet for my dad, when I graduated from college in our home state of Ohio, and left almost immediately to live, work, and play in Colorado. After all, he was born, mostly educated, and lived and worked his whole life in Ohio. It was good enough for my dad, but I sought adventure elsewhere, and have spent 27 of the past thirty years in my adopted home, Colorado, longer now than I lived in Ohio.
Perhaps my greatest adventure was becoming a father 13 years go, and that’s certainly going to remain the case for many years to come. One of greatest joys is that I am raising an adventurous son who – for now at least – is willing and eager to share in many playful and exhilarating experiences with me. A few years ago he reached my level of skiing, and we now enjoy steep, ungroomed terrain together. And when we asked my son what would make for a great family vacation next summer, his desire to be outside and explore new places helped us land on our next destination: Alaska.
Not all of my son’s adventures are with me however, as he also attends an experiential-based school where just last week he reported to class in snow boots and a parka for a hike and field experience in the foothills near Denver. And every summer he spends two weeks at a sleep-away camp on the side of a mountain, a time and place my son truly cherishes.
My own father is on his own adventure these days, whether he realizes it or not. The challenges for him include giving up control of his life and affairs to me, and to myriad medical staff at his skilled nursing home, the adventure of living every day in the moment, while not remembering much of what came before or what’s in store for the future, and the other steep climbs he faces while living in a new place, meeting new people, and trying to keep his wits and dignity intact.
These contrasting adventures came together for me not long ago, as I spent one entire day ironing and writing my son’s name into all of his clothing and gear before dropping him off for the camp bus, and then another couple of days getting my dad settled in his new room at the nursing facility, again being asked to label all of his clothing and belongings so as to help keep them straight in this new living adventure.
Being a father, and being a son, has never stopped being an adventure, for me, for my dad, or for my own son…
…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.