Fathers’ Day

On Friday night, these two soggy urchins showed up at the office screen door just as it was starting to rain-again. All they wanted was some rootbeer. (Their mom was just down the path, their dad was loading the car). After they had their showers (and rootbeer), these devoted parents sat in the office and talked about the experience of being in the woods with their kids—un-distracted. At first I was thinking—‘Rats, I hope the thunderstorms didn’t wreck their entire trip.’ But you know what the kids said about being stuck in the tent with their parents? “Daddy, we’ve never HEARD you laugh like that before.”

During Fathers’ Day weekend, I had my radar tuned to the fathers that were coming through. When I took the time to zero in on them, I was heartened to notice a great bunch of guys—it gives me lots of optimism and faith in the future.

It’s a complex responsibility to be a good dad. Modern dads are supposed to be everything their dads were, and also everything that they weren’t.

They help run households and do dishes. They contribute to the family income. Sometimes as sole supporter. Then the pressure is really on, especially during harder economic times.

They’re supposed to be competent and successful in their careers. After all, they’re setting an example for their kids. They should also be following their dreams, because—don’t we all want our kids to follow their dreams too?

Then, there’s extra curricular activities. Chauffeur, coach, the referee, the fan, the troop leader, the tutor, the counselor. Dads are supposed to help build, help organize, help the community.

We all know that good dads fix stuff, because the stuff is always breaking. They really should exercise regularly, be fit and keep stress at bay. And—they should be sleeping at least 8 hours a night, because otherwise, they get a little testy and impatient.

On top of all that, when is the time to get to know their kids?

And who has time to go fishing????

The dirty rotten secret is that nobody has time to do it all perfectly. Something has to give. (The grandparents seem to understand this best—but that’s a different story).

The trick is—the “taking the time to get to know your kids” piece. It can be hard to quantify that, and it doesn’t fit neatly into the Saturday list along with mowing the lawn.

But the ones I saw this weekend have found one way. Once these families get into the BWCA—so many complexities fall away. Dads don’t burn the candle at both ends out there, so first they can relax and sleep. Phones can’t ring, laptops don’t work, can’t be late for anything really, the car can’t break down…..what a rare treat—well rested, no list, only “time to get to know your kid”.

And with that, I have a couple weekend Fathers’ Day stories to tell:

Boyscout Troop 74 from Manhattan Kansas came off the water on Saturday—each group had taken a different route all the way to Alice Lake (64 miles total)-a lot of dads, a lot of sons. All in Tuscarora Portage Survivor tshirts.

Dave M told Andy that he simply appreciated time to paddle the canoe with his son. They didn’t have to talk, they could just hang out and savor those hours. These are precious memories both of them can draw on when Dave goes back to Iraq next week, for another year of service. (Thank you for doing that for us Dave, by the way. Thank you)

Mike and his daughter had an adventure, and in case you didn’t know this, in June when the fish are REALLY biting, the bugs are biting too. This bright spunky girl spread her cheerful electricity all over the place when they came through. Overheard on the phone— when her mom asked her to rank the trip on a scale of 1-10 . “I don’t know mom, she said seriously. The bugs were REALLY bad out there. I guess I’m going to have to give it a 9.5”

Wade and his son are BWCAW veterans. Can’t you tell by looking at him that he knows EXACTLY how and where to catch fish on Tuscarora Lake? He’s got a wealth of information.

Our friend John (in the stern) began his 2nd Tuscarora trip of this summer last weekend. (I’m putting in the photo of the father-daughter trip too—a couple weeks ago). When you hear John’s booming voice in camp, it matches his presence: straight out of the LA Law TV set. He’s a classic lawyer, in every way but one. He gave up his practice to become a stay-at-home dad. When he’s not busy running the PTA or community organizing, he custom-plans adventures with his kids. Right now these boys are headed on the border route to trace the path of the Canadian Voyageur Fur Traders, from Saganaga to Lake Superior. Including the Pigeon River, and the Grand Portage. Next Saturday we’ll pick them up at the fort on the Grand Portage Reservation. I guess they’ll never complain about the Tuscarora portage again. Too bad we don’t have a shirt that says “I survived the Grand Portage.” 9 miles. Whew. We’re just hoping they’ve found a way so that they don’t have to double-portage their stuff. (Andy was pretty excited about this one, because he got to re-live the days when he wore his red sash and muscled through it with the Swampers from Wilderness Canoe Base. Wayyy back when.)

Phil is part of the internet BWCA club- a chat room group, that has all the of inside information. (His handle is cowdoc -a veterinarian, if you travel in those circles). Anyway, Phil sparked his passion for th BWCA in his daughter Lindsay (Lil cowdoc) –who is now our foodpacker. He built her canoe, and their shared love of the northwoods obviously strengthens the bond between them—reinforced last weekend when he brought his boys up too. (incidentally, I forgot to say thanks for the Wisconsin cheese, Phil. Especially the smoked Swiss…tasty!)

Bryan is in the wilderness right now. He wanted to spend Father’s Day in the nothwoods, to honor the memory of his dad who recently died. Evidently, the peace of the place offers him gentle solace and joy as he’s grieving.

Know what? This is just one weekend of stories. The dads keep coming, carving ways to spend time with their kids. They have taken time to breathe here.Time to look at their kids. To know them. To laugh in a way that their kids will some day say “I remember lying in the tent and hearing Dad laugh harder than I ever thought that he could.”

A belated Happy Father’s Day to all the dads working so hard to be good ones. We sure do appreciate you.