I have always loved nature. Growing up, we did not have a tv in the house, so we were entertained by God's green earth, and not by the television or video games. If I was bored, I would go to the wood pile, fetch me some lumber, and go build a deer stand. I was always hunting, fishing, frog-gigging, bicycling, or camping under the stars. I was a whole lot more of an outdoorsman growing up, than I was with my three kids. Or was I? I recently took a stroll down memory lane by looking at pictures from the past. Granted, my pictures only extend back about 12 years in Google Photos, but the memories live on in my head and heart. Take a stroll down memory lane with me.
It all started in 1974, the year that I was born. I was born in Cincinnati, OH. My mom moved my brother and I to Kentucky in 1985 when I was 11 years old. I was always labeled as a city slicker, but I can assure you I wasn't. I confess that I was not well versed in stripping tobacco, bailing hay, or pulling a calf at that point, but I later got my farm boy education from my neighbor J.C. McCurdy. The above two pictures are from 1978. My brother Michael and I were and are thicker than blood (I am on the left in both pictures). We are two peas in a pod, and still to this day talk to each other daily. Mike is almost 3 years older than me, but I think that we have both grown into looking up to and respecting the other. The above picture that has 1978 written on it, was taken when I was 4 years old. Ironically that is the age of my grandson Thomas, and boy do I see the resemblance in that picture. My brother Michael is wearing the shirt with 12 written on it, and to his right was our childhood best friend Michael Haines, and our best friend Tammy Matson who is climbing the tree. She was the tomboy amongst us that taught us about life in a circle of boys. Without one of the four of us there, we just weren't complete. Each one of us was part of the "Foxhunter Lane Gang" and we trolled the streets on our little Schwinn bikes like there was no tomorrow. We would take off while the sun was up, and knew to return when the sun was setting, or when we heard mom ringing the cowbell. Either way, the world was ours to have, and we weren't going to waste our time indoors.
The above pictures were all taken through the years in Ludington, MI. I grew up vacationing in Michigan, and my mom did with her family since the 1940's. I have so many fond memories of Ludington, and continue to go back there. My brother Michael and I are taking a brothers trip there this fall to relive some of the memories, and to create new ones. In 2017 I had asked David to go to Ludington with me for 5 days on a Father-Son trip. He was going through a rough patch in life that year, and decided not to go with me. I instead took Hannah on a Father-Daughter trip, and we had a blast. The next year I took Nathan on a Father-Son trip to Ludington, and we also had a good time. By that time, David had enlisted in the Army and was off to basic training, and we never got to take our trip. He would mention to me through the years that followed, "Hey Dad, do you think that we can take that Father-Son trip to Ludington that I missed out on?" I told him absolutely, and we would plan it, but his overseas deployment to South Korea prohibited this. Well in the fall of 2020, David started asking me more about taking that Father-Son trip the summer of 2021. One of the last long conversations that I had with David over the phone in December of 2020, he asked me again, "Hey Dad, we are still planning our Ludington trip next July, right?" There was nothing that could keep me from taking that trip with David, or so I thought. On December 23rd, 2020 David was taken from this earth in an auto accident. I remember thinking to myself how I longed for that trip to Ludington with David, and I still do. As promised last summer I went to Ludington by myself, but with David in my heart. I have to admit it was not the same. I went and retraced all of the things that we used to do both as me growing up as a kid, and later when he would grow up as a kid. I would eat fish at Bortello's, but it wasn't the same. Getting ice cream at House of Flavors without him wasn't the same. Riding in the Jon boat without him weighing down the front, just wasn't the same. That week I realized that that as much as I yearn for reliving those memories with David, I have to move forward and make new memories. He will always be in my heart.
Amy is going to be mortified that I put the above picture on this blog for all to see. Sorry dear, my editing functions are broken on my website, and it won't let me take it down. :) I put this picture of David on here, because I took it, and it absolutely makes me laugh every time I see it. David said to me, "Hey Dad, take a picture of me at the water fountain. It makes it look like I am peeing!" It was not just the act of David doing what came so natural to him (acting mischievous, not the peeing part, well that too) but the look on Amy's face. She was so embarrassed in public that her son would do something like that at a playground where other families were milling around. Of course she was right, but I am so thankful for this picture, as I need a smile brought to my face these days. It just sums up David being all boy.
My jam was always dove hunting. I first went dove hunting when I was 10 years old. I had a single shot Harrington & Richardson 12 gauge shotgun that I used, until I bought my Remington 1100 12 gauge when I was 12 years old. I still use both shotguns to this day. I always enjoyed taking my three kids out to the field to hunt with me. Even Hannah loved hunting, and when she was too young to shoot, she would go run and fetch the downed birds. I am so thankful for these memories of us getting out in nature and hunting and fishing together. I would add that we used to fish for bluegill and bass in farm ponds around Shelby County, and for muskie and pike up in Ludington, MI. One of my emblazoned memories of David was on 09/11. I was out fishing with David in a little Jon boat. He was 2 1/2 years old and Nathan was a year old. Amy and Nathan were back at the cottage in Ludington while David and I were out on the Jon boat fishing for Northern Pike. I had just landed a Pike, and was proceeding to hit it over the head (It was hissing and snapping at me) while Amy was yelling at me from shore that a plane had just hit a building in New York. While I was hitting the pike, David was yelling "Bap...Bap..." mirroring what I was doing to the pike. Good times hunting and fishing.
The above pictures are just a collage of different outdoor pictures taken through the years where we let nature rub on us a bit. I am not trying to bore you with pictures from my past, as I know that they mean way more to me through sentimental nostalgia, then they do to you. I would like to make a point that we have become a society so turned towards the indoors, that we forget to get out and enjoy nature. I am speaking to myself on this front. Many days I work in my office all day, that I just want to call it a day and sit in front of the tv and veg. Making memories is one of the best things that you will ever do in life. I know so many workaholic friends that never get outside and enjoy life. They feel like they have to make another dollar, but fail to realize that it will never be enough. I have had many friends work for the end goal of that stacked 401(k) only to end in divorce, and have to split it anyways. A wise man once told me to always date my wife, and to always make her feel special by taking her on a special trip without the kids. That my friends is my secret to a healthy marriage. Well of course communication on a daily basis is essential. I never had the extra money laying around to just take my wife away on a separate mini-vacation, but I knew I couldn't afford not to. I knew that the second I stopped investing in my marriage, was the second that I was handing the keys to my marriage over to satan. I didn't have extra money to take my kids on Father-Son and Father-Daughter trips, but I knew that I couldn't afford not to. Once they grow up and leave the house, your time of doing some of those things diminishes. Or in my case, I know that David always regretted not going on the Father-Son trip to Ludington, MI with me, and I mourn not having that opportunity with him. Time is short, and life flutters by at a rapid pace. I want to be known as a man who left this world in a better place when it is my time to be called home. I want to have assurance that I loved my wife to the fullest, and invested into her life. I want to have no regrets on the time that I have poured into my kids, and took them on special trips. I would add that I still take my daughter on dates. She thinks that term is so weird, but I take her out on meal dates where we catch up on life, and she gets to see her dad treat her special. The sole purpose of this through the years, is for Hannah to see how a man should treat her for when she gets her family in the future. The same goes for my boys. I want Nathan to remember all of the times that I took him hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. so he can then one day carry that forward with his children. And David, I have got this! I will continue on in the same vein with Thomas of making sure his PaPaw shows him what it is like to live fully. Trust me David, he has no problem letting nature rub off on him. He is just like you!
Thoughts to ponder by: