As the boys were growing up I tried to include them as much as possible in the hobbies that inspired me. As I’ve mentioned before, I inherited an insatiable desire to learn new things from my dad and his dad, and I wanted my boys to share that. Inevitably my enthusiasm for a particular activity outlived theirs by a long shot, but we still had some memorable experiences together.
When the World Wide Web was still a relatively new thing, I combined my interest in the web with my curiosity about the weather around Huntsville by creating a weather web page. Gerrit and Tucker followed suit by creating their own personal web pages. We learned a lot together. Their original pages are long gone now, but Gerrit has since started his own web authoring business and has a career in computing. His skills eclipsed mine long ago, but I like to think I had a hand in getting him started. :-)
When my interest turned to astronomy, I bought a small telescope and we learned the night skies together. The lights around Huntsville aren’t very conducive to star gazing, but we were still able to identify the major constellations and see the rings of Saturn and Jupiter’s moons. Somewhere around this time, Gerrit informed us after a youth group camp out that his resulting knowledge of such things proved to be quite the chick magnet. :-) On another memorable night we set up sleeping bags outside in the back yard before dark and then I woke the boys up at about 2am to watch a meteor shower. It was amazing! We still talk about that night whenever there’s news of another meteor shower.
When I got my pilot’s license, I was able to take each of the boys up a number of times. Sometimes the flights involved flying at night, or doing other things locally that kept my skills current. Other times we actually went places. Once, while Gerrit was attending Mississippi State, I flew down to pick him up for a long weekend, then flew him back three days later. It saved him about 8 hours of driving time and made him the envy of his friends. On a whim one summer it was decided that Tucker needed to visit my Aunt Kathy who lives in Kentucky. The weather was bad for a flight there so we drove up and met them halfway, but Philip and I flew up to get Tucker for the return trip. Tuck and I also took a trip after Christmas one year to see my college roommate, Lewis, who was visiting his sister in Georgia. Tuck proved to be quite the navigator on that trip; I’m not sure I could have done it without him.
When my sister and her family came for a visit one year in May, we discovered another activity that was destined to become an obsession. As we were trying to think of something fun to do with all of the kids one day, Tucker suggested we take a hike down to a nearby greenway where a friend of his had shown him the locations of some hidden caches of trinkets that were part of an activity called “Geocaching”.
As Tuck showed us the caches we got really curious about how many more might be near our house, so when we got home we went to the Geocaching web site and found out more about it. It turns out there are hundreds of caches hidden around Huntsville, and over a million around the world! One thing led to another and before you know it we had acquired a GPS unit and were becoming consumed by the game!
Over the next couple of years, Philip and I found over a thousand geocaches in thirteen states and four countries. We hid eleven of our own. We went a lot of places we would have never gone otherwise, and met a lot of nice folks. Mostly we spent a lot of time together.
Eventually, Philip’s enthusiasm for long road trips and hikes through the woods to find hidden Tupperware and painted ammo boxes waned. Hard to imagine, I know. For a while I was able to bribe him to go caching with me using breakfast at Hardees, but finally even that wasn’t enough.
So we moved on.
I’m not sure what the next thing will be. Maybe that season has passed. It doesn’t really matter. What I realize now is that all of those hobbies gave me the opportunity to spend lots of time with each of my boys. Just us. It gave us time to talk, and laugh, and ponder life’s mysteries. We shared our hopes and fears and dreams.
Sometimes it takes a while for guys to get comfortable enough to open up about that kind of thing. Even then, it can sometimes feel awkward.
It’s easier when you’re doing something else, together.
originally published 1/9/12| next post Pets