Saturday, June 15, 2013

As a new father, I appreciate my Grandfather's level head even more

Gumpy and I napping when I was six weeks old.
Four years have passed since Gumpy passed away and there are few, if any, days that go by without me thinking about him even for a minute.  Unable to sleep on the eve of my first Father's Day, happy memories keep occupying my thoughts.

Our trip to Idaho is one of those memories. Specifically, after the first four hours on the road, my sister and I began a rotation as trip navigator in the front seat of the 1984 four-door, extended bed Chevy Silverado with a 454 big-block engine, pulling a 30 ft. Carrie Lite fifth-wheel.  We would be responsible for reading the atlas and suggesting routes, finding gas stations that could accommodate our rig, even calculating how many miles per gallon we were averaging so we knew how many miles we could eat up before our next stop.

When we would get to our destination for the evening, I was on trailer leveling duty.  By the end of the trip, I knew exactly how to level the trailer on many different surfaces and how to guide Gumpy in backing the truck up to hitch the trailer back on the truck so we could get back on the road.

I look back on that trip now and immediately think of two things.  One, I wish I wasn't an angst-filled teenager who's father had just left the family a few weeks before the trip.  We stopped at so many amazing places, like the Crazy Horse Monument, Dwarshak Dam, Yellowstone National Park, the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Wall Drug among many, many others; that I didn't appreciate at the time because I was focused on feeling sorry for myself.

Two, I can't help but remember just how much trust Gumpy gave me.  Or at least it seemed like he did. I remember reading through the owners manual of the truck, trying to determine if one tank of unleaded gas would kill the engine because we were having trouble finding leaded gas coming down Lolo Pass into Idaho from Missula, MT.  While I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing, he let me do my research and consulted me before making the decision to use the unleaded gas so we wouldn't be stranded.

As I approach my first Father's Day as a father, what I appreciate most is Gumpy's consistency on that trip. When I would pout or sulk too much, he would replace me in the front seat. When it was my turn to navigate, he would consult with me and accept my council.  When it was time to set up the trailer for the night, he would always inspect my work after letting me give it my best shot. He wore the same belt with the horse standing on his hind legs with the fence running behind it on the belt buckle whenever we were on the road.

As trite as some of the memories might seem, and as cliche as this might sound, in a time of my life full of questions and uncertainty, his consistency was a rock I could lean on.

I am thankful for the example Gumpy showed me of how to be a compassionate, consistent father.  And I'm thankful I have the opportunity to prove what I learned from him.