Monday, June 20, 2011

A Father's Lessons from Table Rock Mountain

I hope you all had wonderful Mother's and Father's Days!! I appreciate all of you friends, followers, and readers so much, and apologize for not being around for a few weeks. Life is interesting at times, isn't it? Sometimes good things (like blogging) have to take a backseat to weightier things like family and health and mental sanity (lol). But I'm back, and excited to be in the blogosphere with you again!

I found a few pictures recently of my dad as I was cleaning out some rooms and boxes. Isn't he so cute? I wish you could all know him. There are a lot of great men in the world but I can say like so many others, that my dad is truly the greatest man I've ever known.

As we celebrated Father's Day yesterday, of course my mind reflected on my dad who has been gone now for almost twelve years. I miss him so much and miss the influence he had on my life and the life of my tiny kids. I wish they could have known him better and longer. The example he set and the lessons he taught me have had great impact on defining who I am. I hope to be like him when I grow up.

This picture of him and me is full of so many memories. This was taken over 20 years ago on a family reunion when we hiked to a place called Table Rock near the Idaho side of the Grand Tetons. That was an adventure and many lessons rolled into one. Before we took this hike, Dad sat us all down and explained his tender feelings and memories about this particular place. As a young boy, he had hiked this same 11 mile hike with his scout troop. The goal back then was for all the boys to carry their lunches to the top of Table Rock and eat together as a troop while enjoying the amazing vista of the Grand Tetons.

Well, Dad being a typical boy, didn't want to be cumbered with lugging his lunch up the trail, so he somehow convinced one of his buddies to carry it for him. He proceeded to race on up the trail and arrived before anyone else in his group. By that time he was famished, and he began growing impatient by the minute, waiting for his troop and his friend to arrive with his lunch. After some time, he decided he would head back down the trail, assuming he would intersect with his friend, then hike back to the top with him where they could eat their lunch together. Unfortunately, however, he somehow missed his buddy and never met up with him. He was so hungry, tired, and frustrated, that he just kept walking down the 11 mile trail until he eventually arrived back at the bottom....lunch-less.

That memory had lingered with my dad throughout his whole life, and had bothered him that he had lacked the integrity to take care of his own responsibilities. Now, at age 65, he wanted to have a do-over. He wanted to carry his own lunch to the top and eat it with his family. Needless to say, we were all engrossed with his story, and eager to participate with our dad to accomplish this goal.

The hike was beautiful and easy in the beginning, yet quickly became quite challenging. The young teenage grandkids forged ahead easily, with a few of my sisters and I hanging out in the middle of the group, and my older siblings and my dad bringing up the rear. It was not an easy hike. Near the end of the trail, there was about a 500 foot long vertical incline of shale rock. Climbing here was difficult as it was so steep and the rocks slid out from under your feet as you climbed. As I struggled up with my sister, I looked back to see how Dad was doing. Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw him lying on his back; my brother-in-law doctor at his side. He yelled up to us with a smile, easing our fears and letting us know that dad was just resting, and that he was okay.

As the tears began to fall--partly in concern for Dad, and partly because I was exhausted and hungry--I wondered if it was really all worth it, just so Dad could eat his lunch at the top of this trail.

One by one, we all labored and strained to climb to the end of the trail at Table Rock. As we would reach the top, other family members who had arrived before us, would watch for us and reach out a hand to help us up the last few feet. Dad was the last to arrive. He climbed slowly and we all watched with anticipation as he made his way up the shale rock incline. As he approached the summit, my brother clasped his hand to help pull him up over the ledge, and the entire family broke into wild applause and cheering. The smile on my dad's face was priceless.

We enjoyed the magnificent view of the Grand Tetons, played in the snow, and ate our lunch as a family on top of that ridge. We felt on top of the world, and life in that moment was perfect.

What lessons Dad taught us all through that experience. (First, of carry our own lunch!) But more importantly to have the integrity to take care of our own responsibilities, and if you mess up, have the integrity to fix it.

The second lesson I gained from this experience was the value of enduring to the end. We all have challenges, we all have trials, we all have crappy experiences to go through that we didn't ask for. But if we can endure and endure them well, the reward will be worth it. The view at the top of Table Rock was breathtaking, and to be there with the people I loved the most made it that much more incredible. It was worth the struggle, as is anything in life that requires hard work.

And the last lesson from this experience was the importance of family. I realized on that trail how much I needed the support, encouragement, and warmth of my family. I needed my dad, and I needed to know he was okay. I needed him and all of my siblings, nieces, and nephews at the top with me to celebrate our accomplishment. I needed to see Dad come up over that ridge so we could feel complete and to know that not one of us had been left behind.

I love my dad immensely, and am so grateful to him for the many lessons I've gained from being his daughter. I have no doubt that he is looking on, cheering me to keep forging ahead when the trail gets steep, reminding me that in the end, the reward will all be worth it.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

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