By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
In the afternoons and on weekends I watch a little boy play with complete abandon. Lost from the world in a well of imagination, he goes with full confidence anywhere whim may lead.
The adventures and explorations he follows in his mind may be the bedrock of future activity, but his enjoyment of those days is not delayed. Creating storylines to rival the works of William O. Steele, he fights off bad guys and saves the day through woodcraft, skill and extraordinary good luck. He hunts Africa, Alaska and our nation’s Great Plains, fly fishes the length of the Amazon and battles blue marlin in the Yucatan Channel.
He looks forward to a number of more garden-variety trips I’ve promised, events I lose myself in planning, planning for someday. Someday soon.
He looks to me for answers and I do my best to tell him the truth. A great coach once told me, when it comes to life’s tough questions you can’t kid a kid and I know that is so. Even if comprehension may not be present at the moment, memory will certainly remain. When they realize later you respected them enough to tell them things that were true early on, it will be meaningful to them forever. At least, it has been so with me.
In the afternoons and on weekends I’m watching a little girl grow up, one just now beginning to leave her childhood years behind. I see her look to me for reassurance that it’s OK, that I still love her, that she’ll always be my little girl.
She’s walking uphill on life’s seesaw, approaching the fulcrum that swings the balance between innocence and responsibility, and the board behind her grows lighter every day. Her interests are those of adolescence and her mom is a wonderful guide, but her travels that way leave much of what I know behind. Often the best I can do is simply be present, be reassuring, smile.
Like an asset for some future purpose yet unknown, my relevance is being relegated to, “I love you,” so I say that as often as I can. It’s strange to feel so much pride in a process that hurts so deeply, but this is another of life’s answers that is so. I have great reason to hold wonderful hope for the woman she will become, but not yet. Not yet.
I feel I’m ever on life’s seesaw with both of them, balanced somewhere on a board of my own, facing ahead, thinking of what’s behind, trying hard with each step never to fall. So much of this life is this way. The treasures of a life rich in blessings can be a heavy burden to bear, but feel the heft. Rejoice in the toil. This is the job our strength was given us to do.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point