A lifelong climb

“Memory is the scribe of the soul.” — Aristotle

Last weekend, my son and I took a special trip together — he called it exploring. But, what he didn’t know, and still won’t know for years to come, is it was more than just a trip to get out and see nature … it was a trip full of lessons I hope will help him travel his path in life.

I was a very lucky man the day he walked into my life … especially after the tumultuous and rough first 18 months of his life — last month, he turned 4 years old.

Our first stop on our exploratory ride through the countryside was atop a small peak that overlooked a valley … a spot I knew well and had visited many times growing up. And, of course, he had to take a look.

As we approached the fence at the overlook, he was cautious and made sure I was right by his side. He looked out at the peaks in the distance and commented on how high they were — and how far down it was to the bottom.

By the way, he is an expert listener — even at his age — and as all 4-year-olds do, he has more questions than most of us have answers.

His first question was, “Daddy why did we come here?”

I leaned over the same top rail of the split-rail fence he was leaning on and took the opportunity to explain why I brought him there.

“Son,” I said, “I wanted to show you what it looks like to be on the top of the world.”

“The world?” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “Although you don’t know it now, you’ll spend a lot of time down in the valley before you can climb the mountains on your own.”

“I have to be a man like you?” he said. I had to laugh because he says that a lot.

“Well, you may not be as old as me, but right now you have a lot of things to learn before you’re ready to climb all the mountains in life on your own,” I said. “But you can never give up. I will teach you everything I can during your life to help you reach the top — just in case I can’t be here to help you.

“And, when that day comes, and you’ve made it to the top on your own … we will have walked a very special lifetime together, made a lot of memories and you’ll be able to look at the mountains you’ve climbed and say, ‘It was worth every bit of what it took to get here.'”

He said, “OK, daddy, can we go get a burger now?”

I chuckled and said yes — and off we went on our next adventure.

Although he might not have quite the capability to understand the context of our conversation atop the crest of the mountain, I guarantee he has the memory of an elephant and won’t forget it … especially when it comes to getting out of going to bed and having “a question” he needs to ask.

Times are tough nowadays for young children. In a lot of families, both parents work to support their family and have very little time with their children. It’s important for parents, grandparents, and others that can contribute to a young childs life to pass along life lessons to our children — even if at the time they aren’t quite ready to fully understand the context.

Why is it so important? Well, tomorrow is promised to no one, as it is said. For me, it would be a miracle of all miracles if I lived to see his 40th birthday — it’s my legacy to him to pass along knowledge, understanding and the confidence he will need to “climb the mountains” he will face during his lifetime.

We owe it to our children to give them the tools they’ll need to find a way to shine — and, we should do that at every opportunity.

One other thing he learned, which caught on fast — thanks to the dead squirrel in the middle of the road?

“Do vultures eat grass … NO!  Do vultures eat chicken … NO! Do vultures eat people … NO!  Do vultures eat squirrels … YES!”

Ah, the mind of a 4-year-old.