Last weekend, my daughter camped out with other members of her mountain bike team on the night before the race. We dropped her off at the campsite before heading for our own, cozy hotel room.
The family camping area was packed to capacity. Kids ran around yelling; someone had a campfire going. The trees, the smell of woodsmoke, and the noise brought me back to the times my dad took us all camping, and my brother and I were the ones running around playing loud games. I vaguely recall helping out with the tent—something about poles that fit inside each other, perhaps matched by color? Sleeping bags, of course, and maybe air mattresses that had to be blown up? And Cutter’s, of course, to keep off the mosquitoes.
You can tell I didn’t really take to camping, since I haven’t camped for years. Still, standing there smelling the woodsmoke, I thought about my dad and was glad that he had taken us.
I thought about my dad a month or so earlier as well, when my daughter was going kayaking with members of Boat Club. They needed another adult on the water. So I rented a plastic kayak along with the others and got in awkwardly. Once on the water, though, I really enjoyed it. I watched the kids messing around and wished that my dad could be there to see his granddaughter on the water—and to paddle his own kayak again.
|M out on the water in her kayak|
I remember helping him put together the kayak when I was a kid. It came in several heavy canvas bags. Wooden pieces had to be slotted together, poles had to be inserted along the sides, and then the two ends had to be pushed into the rubberized hull before they could be locked together and the seat backs put in place.
|Taking a last look at the Klepper Aerius.|
Then we would go out on the quiet lake and paddle around the edges.
There are other things I learned from my dad. He liked to make things, sometimes from kits. I remember a down parka, a paper clock with a pendulum, and of course the electric organ, which took forever with all those wires to solder. I learned some basic skills from him as he carried out his projects—how to use the sewing machine, and how to cut and score paper. (I didn’t get into electronics, though he let me try soldering some wires.)
He also had a great interest in the latest technology and insisted on getting a computer back when it seemed like a crazy idea. I mean, who had a computer in their home?
But he got a Sinclair and it had so little memory that you could easily type in a Basic program and run out of room before you were done. And what do you know—he was right about computers being interesting. Now everyone has one.
He liked to garden as well, but since he also liked to travel and we moved every two years, his gardening was limited. I, on the other hand, was determined to live in one place when I grew up and have a really nice garden. But we shared a love of home-grown tomatoes. I always try to have tomato plants, even in years when the rest of the garden is in sad shape.
|Me as a kid in front of his light-box for growing plants|
|My own attempt at a light-box for starting plants|
There were things my dad didn’t like, certainly. He was scornful of “ya-ya music”, which is what he called rock, and probably most music that followed it. (Did he get the term from the Beatles’ song “I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah, I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah”?) He abhorred the practice of having a TV in the living room (never in our house) or watching TV during meals. Really, he disliked most TV shows except documentaries.
And he could have the most irritating little smirk when he felt he was winning an argument.
Overall though, he had a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of interests. I wish that he could be here to share them with his granddaughter.