OPINION –Fall weather always stirs my fondest memories of time spent outdoors with my father.
The changing leaves and crisp air were a clear signal for us to dust off our fishing poles and hunting gear. Living in Southern Idaho meant that we could indulge in our favorite pastimes by traveling 20 minutes in almost any direction.
As a teenager, I tended to see my dad as a warden of sorts. Every time my friends and I set out for some irresponsible fun, he was there to nip it in the bud. But the adversarial part of our relationship seemed to disappear whenever we found ourselves afield.
Maybe it was the informal setting, but we seemed to talk more freely—even when discussing weightier issues. Something about hauling in fat rainbow trout or tromping the ditch banks and stubble fields for ringneck pheasant together made us stop taking ourselves so seriously.
One cold, snowy fall day while we were fishing, I spied a lone duck quietly sitting in a distant cove and grabbed my shotgun to go after him. I painstakingly stalked my way over, carefully keeping hidden from the wary mallard. My dad watched with interest from our fishing hole.
With the greatest stealth, I crept within range and slowly eased my way into view of the duck. Still sitting on the water, it slowly began to turn toward me and I quickly shouldered my single shot 12 gauge and fired.
The duck just sat there, apparently unimpressed, and then slowly began to sink. From far down the shoreline, I could hear my father’s laughter as I realized what he had known all along; I had been stalking an abandoned decoy. Sheepishly, I trudged back, picked up my pole and resumed fishing.
Looking back, I now realize that some of the most important life lessons I learned from my dad were those he shared during our outings. Though I often pushed back and rebelled against him through my teen years, he always was there for me. He was always strict, but graciously allowed me to learn from my mistakes.
Our family had struggled financially during my adolescence due, in part, to dad’s battle with cancer. Even after his successful treatment he had great difficulty in finding gainful employment for years afterward. Few employers were willing to take a chance on hiring him because of the cancer.
Eventually he was hired as a pharmacist at a local drug store and I joined him part time as a clerk and delivery boy.
One day, as I wrestled with some difficult decisions, dad asked me to take a ride with him. As we visited, I was suddenly hit with the realization that my old man had actually been on my side all along. It was a turning point in my life and a defining moment in our relationship.
For the first time I recognized how difficult things must have been for him dealing with a life-threatening illness, financial hardship, and my stubborn determination to defy him. My admiration for dad grew as I left home to serve a mission for my church and corresponded with him for the two years I was away.
Upon returning home, I eagerly awaited the coming of fall so he and I could return to our favorite hunting fields. But his health was declining and as we hunted I could clearly see that his heart just wasn’t in it.
I asked him if everything was okay and he apologetically told me that he “just didn’t want to kill anything” any longer. It was the last time we would go hunting. I finally understood the meaning of the phrase “you can never go home again.”
Within a year his cancer had returned and it came back with a vengeance. He died shortly after the following Christmas.
It’s hard to believe that dad would have been 80 years old this Saturday. It’s even harder to believe that, as of January, I will have lived exactly half of my life without him.
I still have his letters and find wisdom in his words. I often long for his perspective on the challenges I face in life. I know my kids would make him laugh—especially when they’re giving me the kind of grief I once gave him.
Thank you, dad, for teaching me to measure wealth by the time we spent together. I finally understand just how rich we were.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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