Brad Is As Amazing As Nature
We spend a lot of time in the woods. It would be stupid to live as close to as many natural wonders as we do and not take advantage of it. Ferne Clyffe, Giant City, Garden of the Gods, Jerry's backyard; we don't care where it is as long as there's trees or some rocks or at least some mud. He's a boy with a man inside. I'm a man with a boy inside. There's brush to trample through and tracks to follow and boulders to climb and dirt. The dirt is the most important part. If we come out of the woods with our clothes clean.... well, I don't know what that would mean because we've never come out of the woods with our clothes clean.
From almost as soon as he could walk we've been walking in the woods. I always like to let him lead. A hike in the woods for a boy should be all about discovery and you don't discover things by someone else pointing them out to you. Also, this way when he gets lost I'm able to teach him lessons about finding his way in the woods. Since he was small I've also been teaching him what little I know about animal tracks and deer signs and such. Right now he still thinks I'm kind of smart but it won't be long and he'll be teaching me. He's shared my disdain for hiking paths for as long as I can remember. Those man made trails are just a starting point. It's never long before he veers off of them into the thick of the woods and I follow behind him with a smile on my face. That isn't to say he just trounces through the forest without paying attention, though. He often points out turtles and frogs to me and when he was in kindergarten he told me that we should never step on baby trees because, "little things can grow up to be great things." I told him he had no idea how right he was.
Rock climbing is in his blood, too. I've been doing it as long as I can remember and something to climb is the first thing he looks for when we go for a hike. I'm talking real rock climbing, too, no ropes or harnesses. Just bare hands and rocks. When he was four we made our first trip to Garden of the Gods and I began teaching him about finding handholds and footholds and finding the right way up a rock. If you've never been there you should know that a fall at Garden of the Gods could be a sixty or eighty feet fall. There were actually complete strangers scared of what I was letting my four year old do. I should have told them to mind their own business but I just laughed at them. For her part Sherri just said that if he fell I might as well throw myself of the cliffs too because she was going to kill me. I just laughed at her, too. Brad was never in any danger.
Now that he's eight it's a different story. I often explain boys his age to people this way; if there's not a chance of them getting hurt or hurting someone else than it probably isn't that much fun. I'm usually joking when I say that but when we went to Garden of the Gods earlier this year I realized it's not as funny as I thought it was. Brad went from giving other people heart attacks to giving me heart attacks. I'd say his confidence exceeds his skills but the problem is it really doesn't it. He's a damn good rock climber and he knows it so I didn't tell him not to do anything I was just constantly telling him to wait for me. It was exhilarating in the way that only watching your child accomplish something he enjoys can be.
A few days before he went we had been discussing books and he had wondered why I read Stephen King and enjoy being scared. I told him that being scared can make you smile afterwards and feel more alive. All day long during our rock climbing I reinforced this by telling him how much he was scaring me but pointing out how much fun I was having. He didn't really get it, though, probably because he wasn't scared a bit. Then there came a spot where I had to lift him over a gap in the rocks so he could get where he wanted to go so I did. For the briefest of moments he was hanging sixty feet in the air from nothing but my arms and I felt him tense up in fear. Then when I sat him down safely on the other side of the gap he laughed and smiled like a maniac. I looked at him and asked if he understood know why I liked to be scared sometimes and he nodded.
Here's a video I made of him on that trip to Garden of the Gods. I'm not as out of shape as I sound in the video. This was near the end of the day and my adrenaline had been maxed out for hours thanks to his daring ways so I was short of breath and energy and loving every minute of it.
Brad Wears A Tie And Learns About Women
I decided to throw this one in here because it's short but it's one of my favorite memories of Brad. He started tearing his room and the laundry room apart one day and his mom and I asked him what he was doing. He explained that he was looking for his tie because he wanted to wear it to school the next day. I laughed and asked him what her name was. His face got red and he hid in his room. I found his tie and took it into him.
"How did you know Dad?" he asked.
"Unless he has to wear one for work," I explained, "there's only three reasons a guy wears a tie. A wedding, a funeral, or because he wants to impress a woman and you aren't going to a wedding or a funeral tomorrow."
He smiled shyly and looked down at his feet. He never did tell me her name.
Speaking of Brad and girls, on one of the last days of school this year they had a day where they did nothing but play on the playground. Assuming he had a great day I gave him hell about how I had to work hard all day while he just got to goof off. He told me that his day had been pretty hard too.
"What do you mean your day was hard?" I said, "Oh, poor you, you had to play on the playground all day."
"I spent the whole day with a girl I like Dad," he told me.
"And you didn't have a good time?"
"I did," he said, "but I had to listen to her talk all day. She told me what she had for breakfast and what she ate last night and what all her friends were doing and what movies she liked and she talked and talked and talked."
I, of course, was laughing my ass off.
"You aren't supposed to laugh Dad," he whined, "You're supposed to tell me how to make a girl stop talking."
"When you figure that one out, son," I said, "let me in on the secret."