Over the weekend, as I stated in my last post, I took the kids to the Calaveras County Big Trees park. It was during the trip to that very state park, though, that my kids asked me if I’d ever been to the park before. I had, but it had been a very, very long time. In fact, the only time I’d actually visited I wasn’t even a resident of the state of California. I wasn’t married yet…may not even have been engaged.
When I started dating Andrea, things were pretty hot and heavy at first. We spent nearly every free moment together. When she went off on any kind of break, particularly over the summer, I visited. This was one particular break, most likely Spring Break, as I distinctly remembered the trip. It wasn’t memorable because of the trees or the drive or the altitude…it was memorable because I had to have a tooth pulled and I waited until after the trip to visit Andrea to have it done. This was problematic because I ended up having it pulled on the day of my computer final. (still managed to get an “A” in it, though)
I told my kids the story, of how I had come out and visited their Mom. How we drove all the way to Big Trees because, frankly, her father wanted to take us there. I was all for it, but I distinctly remember Andrea being less than thrilled. Still…she caved in and did it anyway. If it gave us a chance to have some wine and a picnic – a fact I left out of the story for the kids – their mother was all in. I went along and, frankly, hopped up on narcotics for the pain in my infected gums and aching tooth, I could have visited the Calaveras County landfill and not cared.
Why I bring this up, though, is because there was a dichotomy to the story. I had fondness for their Mom, and my brain still remembers great details of everything that happened in those first years with her. They were intense and fiery and sexy and I would go back to those very memories whenever things got bad or difficult to remind myself…this is why you married this woman.
But during the trip, when I’d bring up the trip with their mother, each of the kids would have their own qualifications for what likely happened:
“I doubt Mom would have walked up this trail, Dad.” That was true. It was near vertical in places and filled with tree roots and their Mom was likely dressed to the nines, even to go to a state park.
“She didn’t like hiking. Mom wasn’t an outdoorsy type.” True again.
“Did you stay a long time Dad?”
“No, kiddo. ”
“Because of Mom?”
“Well…no…your Mom probably wanted to stay.”
“Grandpa, right?” That was right. Andrea’s Dad liked to say he visited places, but he didn’t spend a lot of time there once he’d arrived. He’d go, see the sights and get out. Lingering wasn’t something her family did. Camping they did, but I wasn’t up for that and we weren’t in a position to do it at that time.
It was interesting, to me and I had come to realize that we had swung the pendulum both ways: we started out two years ago adoring everything about Andrea. She was perfection, the beautiful photos from her youth and the smile and the love she showed us. A year later we were talking about the bad things, the stuff that put us through so much stress. That seemed all we could dwell on. Now, though, we’ve reached the happy medium, which is what marriage really is/was, right? We had hard times, we had amazing times. I’m sure my own kids will have their vision of how their Dad raised them and there will be things about me that drive them completely bonkers. I hope by the end they realize I tried my best.
But as we stood there next to a tree that was thousands of years old, I knew they’d at least remember visiting the place. Where they weren’t real sure they wanted to go after we got home it was all they could talk about.
As I tucked in the boys for the night they informed me “we had the best day, Dad!”
That’s all I could hope for.