Being a father of four children, while perhaps not as hard a job as being a mother of four, is in itself a whole other world unto itself. I may be holding the office of Captain Obvious writing a sentence like the previous, but when I think about it, it sounds as if I’m dusting off some ancient relic within the labyrinth of some Central American pyramid like a domestically responsible Indiana Jones. Placing this in perspective, when I was an unmarried rogue of a bachelor I had as much free time as I had time off from work. The weekends and the hours after work days were totally free. Looking back, I had zero responsibility. The revelatory thing about taking an introspective look back is I practically did nothing remarkable.
I wasn’t a swashbuckling, hunk of a ladies’ man, taking girls out on the town in my two-tone ’83 Toyota four cylinder pickup. I was a 19 year old tire retreader in Auburn, Washington, I drank percolated Yuban coffee at home and hung out at Starbucks or Sherri’s 24 hour diner depending on my mood, and I had a library card- which I used frequently. My wardrobe consisted of whatever I found at the St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army thrift store. I was pretty much a loner outside work. I had a 4×4 but I never trekked off road, never went mountain climbing or hunted or fished. I was semi-nomadic on the weekends, talking long walks in the Orting Valley or into Sumner.
I usually had a moleskine notebook tucked in my shirt pocket and a Pilot gel ink pen packed away too. Fancied myself a lone, blue coller writer type who only actually had a couple of free lance pieces published in the Puyallup Herald. I think with both stories combined I made $100. I was living the dream.
By no means am I giving you, dear potential reader, the complete picture; also, I am not implying I actually had this deeper layer of mystique, to quote Shrek, “like an onion” or “parfait”. Not to downplay whatever segment of my life at that time was, but as I look back now, I could have done some dang cool things with my time. I could have fished for salmon in Alaska, fought grizzlies, or fought grizzlies trying to fish for salmon in Alaska. Or I could have worked on an off-shore oil rig thwarting the evil schemes of hostile Greenpeace activists on charter boats- with a squirt bottle. Alas, those things never came to fruition. The best was yet to come.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife, kids and I went up Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains, which are only fifteen miles away from our house, to check on the snow melt and when we might be able to start hiking. We drove about eleven miles in, almost to the end of the road and the trail head, when we hit the snow drift which indicated we wouldn’t be doing much hiking until the middle of July. There were two pickups parked at the snow drift and two men standing out in the sun chatting. I went up to introduce myself and the three of us started discussing the snow melt and trail conditions. One of the fellows was a white-haired old bloke, wearing minimalist hiking apparel-leather boots, khaki pants, long sleeve shirt and a round brim hat. The other was a younger, trendier man, maybe in his mid-thirties, and obviously single. Now, that is an odd thing to say for sure, but any married man with children knows what I mean when I say “obviously single”. If not, let me explain.
There are men out there, like me, who are happily married to a great woman, have a family, and know they’re blessed. Then there are other guys out there, single, and enjoying their singledom to the utmost. They are freewheelin’ types with a good job to support all their swashbuckling adventures. Depending on their context, they may have a muscle car, a nice apartment near a beach and surf a lot, or in this case, a good job and plenty of opportunity to cross country ski, can afford all the trendy, expensive hiking gear but choose to hike the entire Ruby Crest Trail like spartan, with a knife, ceramic pot and a staff made of mountain mahogany. Basically, the guys who are “obviously single” enjoy their freedom, blazing trails before the dad type can get all of his small children out of the family eight passenger car.
I love my family, and honestly, I do not envy those cool, lone wolf guys at all. But that doesn’t mean I won’t live vicariously through their awesome experiences when listening to them talk about reaching the summit of K2 in the Himalayas or Alaska’s Denali. My contentment in my marriage and family also doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes feel sick hearing them talk of all their coolish exploits. I grumble a little. But I rest knowing the lot I have been given is so very good! I try to revel in coming home at the end of a crazy day to the loud noises of my four children and the wife who loves me and also hands me a baby who needs his diaper changed. An epic diaper change.