Rounding a sharp corner, on an empty road that paralleled Yellowstone Lake, we saw what we had come to see ... a stout and intimidating male Grizzly Bear. He paused, just long enough for our heart to enter our throats, then disappeared quickly up a steep hill into a tangle of lodge-pole pine and boulders. I drove quickly to that spot, grabbed the camera, and leapt from the car to follow. Levi, my youngest, said boldly "Dad! That's not a good idea!" And he was right ... the wisdom of a 9 year old trumped my desire for just one good photo. But just that fleeting moment became a wonderful memory, of 2013, that my three children and I will have forever. That year we amassed a collection of wonderful memories.
Despite its many memories, 2013 entered dark, frigidly cold, and foreboding in the small Eastern Montana town that I called home for two weeks a month. Twelve hundred miles to the south-east, but close in my heart, were my three wonderful children. Employment, required to support them, took me too far away for too many days a month; a necessary circumstance that made me miss them terribly. I was missing out on too much. My heart was heavy.
I decided then, sitting on a sharply-sloped snowy hill, that I would make 2013 one full of adventures and memories, not regrets and moments missed despite employment that made it difficult to pull off. So, I prioritized, focused, and started planning. As a single father of three, lots of planning is requisite but often difficult with the needs of the children themselves, their mother, and the many activities of life. I had to re-arrange schedules, take time off, and skip activities I had planned for myself. However, we pulled it off, and organized 4 weeks of trips across the western mountains and mid-west badlands and plains.
Some of our destinations were educational, some silly, but all fun! We found ourselves in the high Cascade Mountains smelling wild flowers and watching the furtive and exquisitely beautiful Harlequin Duck. We fished, mid-summer, in an Idaho lake for cutthroat trout; the elevation high enough to have frost on the flowers until the sun drove it away. We stopped, with somber moments, at a National Cemetery in South Dakota. We saw the grandeur of Mount Rushmore and learned about the great men that came before. We hiked the Montana Badlands and found fossils and petrified wood; 60 million-year-old relics from the past. We sat for long hours just visiting and re-connecting with western family and friends. We planned, explored, discovered, and found much. What we found the most of, however, was each other.
I am grateful for a 2013 when I was compelled to focus on time with my children, to overcome circumstances of life and employment that pulled me away from them. I’m grateful that we prioritized, planned and got out to play!