"Dad, can you wait for me to take your walk?"
My 7-year-old son was looking up at me expectantly. His eyebrows were arched over his brown eyes, and his close-cropped hair was sticking up in three different directions.
"Can ya, Dad? Just 15 minutes."
I looked away from my email and smiled at Eric. "Sure, but hurry up and get your homework done. You need to do good on your spelling test."
"I know! I will." He shuffled off to his room, and I wondered again at how my parents’ voice comes out of my mouth.
About 20 minutes later he was finally done writing out his spelling words, so I grabbed my hat and sunglasses and headed for the door. He hurried behind, but just as I got to the screen door he called out, "Wait! I need to bring along my flag!"
I paused and murmured, "Okay,” and waited on the sidewalk leading from the front door. Eric came running back holding his checkered race flag.
As we headed across the front lawn and toward the break in the wall that leads to the path around the floodplain, I find myself smiling at the colorful New Mexico spring sky. Blue, gray and white spread out in a mixture of thin stratus and billowing thunderheads. The Sandia Mountains towered majestically, as always. We started a brisk walk, bent into the wind that was blowing strong enough to give Eric a challenge in holding on to his waving flag.
"Hey, Dad! Are these staples stronger than regular ones?" He pointed at the staples his Mom recently used to attach, again, the flag to the wooden stick.
I examined them more closely. "Yes, I think so, Son."
"Good," he grinned. "I wouldn’t want it to come off!" With newfound confidence he waved the flag back and forth as we trudged down the dirt path past backyard walls and on to the hill that rises to the top of a gravelly access road. It is really built for foot traffic and bikes, but occasionally a city truck will travel it, not to mention dogs and horses. More than once I steered Eric out of the way of droppings.
We came to a steep incline and slowly climbed past the big boulders to the top. We both were breathing harder. At the top of the road, we had a quarter mile or so to the other side of the floodplain. The wind was strongest here. I had to steady my hat a couple of times, and my son’s flag was going great guns. Eric wondered why I walk so fast. I wondered why I have to slow down so much. No worries, it was good to be together, father and son time.
The question, “Why don’t I spend more time doing this,” crosses my mind. Usually my walks are a quiet time for me while still getting a cardiovascular workout. Yesterday after work I walked and refused to let Eric come along since he wasn’t done with chores or homework. He can delay more than any wily Washington Senator on a full-blown filibuster. He cried and wailed that it wasn’t fair, but he obviously held on to the promise that he could accompany me today if he did his work first.
Today, his questions came frequently, often mixed with his odd comments. "Why are there so many trees down there? That’s a baby tree. Who cut down those weeds? Look, that weed is bigger than me! How come nobody cuts that one down?"
My best answers weren’t sufficient. Sometimes I just nodded, or said I didn’t know, or commented how that’s interesting. Is God like this, too? We ask our silly questions or make our silly human comments because we don’t know better, and does God just smile and nod?
The weather was warm and dry, and along with blowing dust were moths and other flying insects. Eric waved his flag like a swatter, and I had to use my hands to keep them away from my face. I was starting to work up a sweat now. My breathing was getting a bit heavier, yet my heart was full towards bursting at this pleasant time together, marveling at the beauty of Albuquerque. As beads of sweat appeared on my forehead, a smile creased my lips. As much as I enjoy solitary walks, having my little companion today was special.
Can you look at life through the eyes of a child? Have you tried it lately? Kids are much better at being "in the now." No big concerns about tomorrow, certainly no stress over getting a big work project done for the boss or finding a way to make the mortgage payment. Plenty of time for that later in life. The gift for us, the one I received on this walk, is that we can set those concerns aside. At least for a little while. Get outside, get some exercise, and be like a child. Some people say once you’ve lost your innocence you can’t get it back. I disagree. It’s there, waiting for you to discover it. My son gave it back to me.
"Hey Dad, wanna race to that tree? Come on! It’ll be fun!"
"Okay, Son. Ready … set … go!!"
Laughing, wheezing and grinning like maniacs, we both arrived at the tree at the same time. Well, okay, I let him get there a second or two before me.
"Wow, Eric. You sure run fast." We put our arms around each other and headed home.
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