A guest blog post from daughter Kate – on her first Father’s Day without her dad being a phone call away.
There was always so much anticipation in advance of our annual dispatch to the national parks. A week beforehand, the camping supplies would come out: neatly organized plastic bins of plastic dishes, tin mugs, clothesline and pins, lists of items to bring typed out by my mother. Tents would be aired out, lanterns checked, the inside of the van cleaned by my brother so that we could better enjoy 14 days inside. Sometimes we would ready travel journals, or books on tape to listen to on our journey. We always had song books to sing from as a family, and cribbage, and lots of reading material.
Underlying all of the preparation, for me, was the knowledge that I would soon go somewhere I had not been before – and the trust that if Papa was taking me there, it was special. I knew I was not born with the natural oneness with nature that my siblings seemed to have — I never had an urge to go backpacking, and the heat and altitude gave me headaches and a bad case of the whines. But my father’s quiet enthusiasm and intense love for the big spaces and cold lakes he took us to made me want to learn from him – to appreciate more of what was clearly so pure and satisfying.
Nature is honest. A mountain is nothing more or less than it pretends to be. It doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, or omit something for the sake of its image. It doesn’t worry about whether it is being understanding of the other mountains. It is.
I remember a Summer trip – I must have been in my early teen years, more emotional than I was comfortable with and stuck inside my own rationalizations of my ups and downs. We were listening to all of his — my — favorites. Chuck Berry sometimes bothered my mother; Bob Dylan pleased everyone, telling things simply the way they are, like my dad did. “You gotta serve somebody.” Natalie Cole was on, singing softly about smiles: “Smile, though your heart is aching / smile, even though it’s breaking.” I was probably singing along, in the [Glad] way. My father said quietly to me from the front seat: “I like this song. But when you are unhappy, [Kate], you shouldn’t force yourself to smile. It is okay to be sad.”