Mark vs Cancer

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Boy

My son Grant turns five this week, and I'd like to wish my Little Buddy a happy birthday.

He and I had a wonderful opportunity to bond over the past two weeks. Due to our move and some free time in my schedule, he and I headed out to Southwestern Colorado to spend some time on "the Ranch," a friend's spacious and idyllic mesa in the middle of nowhere. My parent's joined us for the first weekend, and my wife and other two children joined us for the last, along with my brother and his wife and two children.

But in between, it was just me and Grant and a whole lot of wide open spaces. We stayed in a log cabin on a small lake in a remote corner of the mesa. At night, looking out the rear window, we could see by starlight the Lone Cone and the Delores Peaks towering on the horizon, and it was impossible to see any other signs of humanity. There were absolutely no city lights, no streetlights, no anything in any direction.

We would look to the stars and everything was crystal clear. No light pollution. If fact, it was only when we saw the slow drifting satellites in orbit that we felt reminded that we weren't the last two guys on earth. The Milky Way was so prominent that it looked like, well, spilled milk.

Grant and I had a deal. He had to let me write for four hours a day, but the rest of the day was his. And we had a great time. We cooked all of our meals together, chopped a lot of wood, played football and baseball and frisbee and horseshoes (we modified the horseshoe's rules, and Grant is very proud that I could never beat him, and believe me, I was really trying). We played chess, checkers, chinese checkers, puzzles and several other board games. We read lots of books. We tried to fly our new remote controlled helicopters, only to irreparably break both of them within minutes of take-off. We built campfires and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. We went canoing on the lake. We fixed crooked signs all over the place. And mostly, we did a LOT of four-wheeling, at least 3 hours a day, I would guess, and probably rode well over two hundred miles in ten days.

We hunted for turkeys, and though ultimately unsuccessful, we saw several dozen of the sneaky rascals. We saw countless deer and birds and squirrels and rabbits. We saw an owl, a golden eagle, some prairie dogs, and too many cows. (This is still a working cattle ranch). We never did see any elk, though we know they were around.

The climactic moment came on our last day. We came zooming around the corner on our four-wheeler, and there, in the middle of the road, was a good-sized black bear, not twenty yards away. He was so startled that he literally jumped in the air, turned and stumbled away quickly thorough the scrub oak. He was gone within seconds, and to be honest, neither Grant or I felt the least bit scared. Of course, we had our snazzy four-wheeler and a trusty firearm to back us up.

In the end, I got some great writing done, and we had dozens of memorable experiences, but by far the best outcome of the whole endeavor was getting to spend an extended time with my son. He and I have battled mightily over the past few years, and particularly over the last few months, as he seems to have been fairly rattled by our move and to have acted out with attention-seeking behaviors and fierce tantrums.

But not on this trip. Almost without exception, he was perfectly behaved. We didn't clash even once, and I think both of us discovered how much fun we had together, how much we enjoyed each other's company. Quite honestly, by the end of the trip, I sometimes found myself forgetting that he was my son, and not just my hunting buddy.

He was extremely cute in a most unintentional way. I noticed for the first time how dearly he loves his stuffed animals, particularly his T-Rex and his Glow Puppy. Sometimes, I'd take a break from my writing and just watch him from the balcony, playing contentedly or even exuberantly by himself around the cabin, throwing rocks or jumping off stumps or collecting pine cones. Here was a four, almost five year old boy, and it seemed to me that the most important thing in the world for him was to be exactly where we were, doing whatever it was we happened to be doing.

Grant is a boy who, for good or ill, wears his emotions very prominently on his sleeve. But for two weeks, the tantrums and attention-seeking disappeared. It was just him and his Daddy on the Ranch, exploring and playing and four-wheeler riding. Other than missing Elizabeth, Joy and Justin, the world seemed absolutely perfect for both of us. And more than anything else, I knew he was happy, which made me overwhelmingly happy.

So here's to my wonderful five year old son!

Happy Birthday, Grant Guy! I love you!


Tyler said...

Grant is a lucky boy to have a dad who likes to ride 4-wheelers and fly helicopters.

Too bad his dad couldn't put a turkey on the table for dinner:-)

Sounds like you guys lived every minute to the fullest. Happy Birthday Grant!

Dad said...

Having shared just a couple of days of this time with you and the Grantster, I totally know what you talking about. He is a terrific little guy with a strong spirit and and ability to be so darn cute on the one hand and then can very quickly be a bit much to deal with a second later. I saw none of that difficult behavior and know that this time you had together is one of those life changing type periods in your and his life.

You are a great dad and he is a sweet, smart and very funny kid.
I love the both of you more than I can express and so admire the way you parent your children and love your wife.

Too bad about the turkey, but just as well that he is alive to be killed another day.

The bear story is quite an adventure in itself.


Goose said...

Sounds like a real good time. Grant is one lucky man.

Angie said...

What a great post! So fun to read about the adventures you guys had before we got there, and we feel so lucky to have been able to spend some of that time with you. I'm sure Grant is going to remember that time for the rest of his life. He really is a cute little man, and you're a great dad.