Robert asked to go down the river with me Sunday, and that’s not the sort of opportunity I’m likely to pass up.
It could not have come at a better time.
For the past week I’ve been lamenting the loss of time with my sons. I take credit for having raised the kinds of young men I enjoy spending time with, and I do love spending time with my sons. But with my oldest now 20-years-old, my middle son 16 and the youngest 14-years-old, they are all in a stage of life where they don’t really want to hang out with me the way the used to.
My oldest, Harrison, he used to sit through 2-hour county commission meetings with a coloring book just so he could hang out with me when I was a beat reporter covering a meeting. Not so long ago, Nathan was in the car with his cleats on any time I invited him to go play soccer with me. And I could always count on Robert – anytime I was running any kind of errand – to want to ride along.
But these days Harrison has work and friends he’d rather spend time with. Nate prefers to play soccer with the guys on his team and is always too sore from practice and games to go play with his old man. Robert still likes to ride along, sometimes, but often he’s hanging out with his friends.
I don’t take any of it personally. I understand that they’re all at an age where they have other interests beyond just hanging around with their dad, and it’s right and proper that they do.
But when the opportunity comes along that one of them does want to spend some time with me, I’m absolutely going to seize that moment.
Truthfully, there are not many things I enjoy more than paddling down the river with just me in the canoe. When you get two people in the boat, it gets a little more unwieldy through the rocky shoals. My boat is a flat water canoe, so it doesn’t turn on a dime anyway, but with the weight of a body in the front, it’s like driving a school bus through the river.
The general rule that all the boys understand is that when they’re in the front of the canoe they can hold a paddle but they need to keep it out of the water unless I tell them to do something with it.
Sunday we were going with a couple of buddies of mine that I regularly paddle with, Rodney and David.
For the route we were paddling, we put in just above some shoals where dodging rocks is more a miracle than a skill.
But Robert and I shot through the shoals pretty well. On one drop, the bow of the canoe splashed heavily into the water and Robert and I both got pretty wet, but other than that we managed to find the right channels and only scraped bottom a couple of times.
It was a fun little run.
The last time Robert and I had come through this way was last summer, and a nasty thunderstorm blew up on us. With rain pelting us and lighting flashing all around, we paddled like we were in a race and ran the river in the shortest time I’ve ever done it.
Sunday, though, the weather was just as perfect as it could possibly be. The sky was blue, the sun dried us and kept us warm, and the day was just about perfect.
We stopped at a sandbar and pulled our boats out of the water and climbed the bluff up to some rocks that overlook the river, and we ate lunch there.
We saw a massive turtle and a blue heron. We discovered on the banks the tracks of deer and turkey.
The water was high enough that we were able to paddle a ways up a little creek. We stopped enough that Robert was able to walk through the woods a couple of times and explore while Rodney, David and I sat around talking.
And when we reached the bridge where we take out, having Robert there to help me drag my 80-pound canoe out of the water made life easier than if I had to do it myself.
When we got home, we talked for a while in front of Nathan about what a great day it had been, and how much fun we had shooting through the shoals. The last time Nate was in the canoe with me was last summer when the water was so shallow we spent almost as much time walking down the middle of the river and dragging the boat over the sandy bottom as we did actually paddling it.
I could see Nate thinking about a river adventure, and I don’t think it will take much to convince him to make a trip soon.
While I understand and appreciate that the boys are at the ages where they are building lives of their own that don’t always include me, it makes it a little easier knowing that there are some things – like a river adventure – where my sons still find me useful to have along.
Of course, just as I was starting to feel better, Harrison came home asking to borrow the canoe to go down the river with his friends.
Rob Peecher is author of the book “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings,” available at amazon.com.