My garden grows very weed-ish. I planted flowers this year but no vegetable garden. Our Spring was just not one for planting if you are a casual gardener, a designation that I will some day attain. At this point in my life, I qualify as occasional gardener only, unless marigolds count. My marigolds are doing well this year, safe from the threat of the evil uprooter Miriam, enemy to all plants.

Dang it, writing about gardening is not why I am here this morning.

This past weekend was one of those leave-the-windows-open-spend-as-much-time-outside-as-possible times, a three day holiday weekend. The weather was pleasantly cool with almost no precipitation, which means that when Saturday morning came around, I chose riding the dirt trails on my mountain bike over the grueling grind of a road ride. Mountain biking makes me feel like a 53 year old kid as I bounce around the trails, flying over the jumps. I thought about that Saturday morning while I rode, how I would have loved to have trails available to me when I was a kid like the ones I ride around here. I got off of my bicycle after three hours on the trails, wondering if I could justify another hour of riding, even though I was filthy and soaked with sweat. I asked another rider to take a picture of me in the parking lot before I left, one of those things where I just wanted to remember that I had been there that morning.

Nate had been working at the golf course while I rode Saturday morning. We spent Thursday evening on the trails at Saw Wee Kee together, a first time for Nate and the day I have hoped would happen for quite a while. Nate asked me to take him mountain biking, enjoyed it with the awe that the boy in me also has. After I finished my yardwork on Friday, Nate and I played 18 holes of golf together (as we also did last night). When Nate asks me to do things with him, I usually don’t turn him down. I have said it before that our best times together, when we treat each other like father and son, are when we do things like golf. Mountain biking could end up being the same thing. The last four days have not just been a time to spend time outside, but also a time to build on those times my son will remember spending with his dad.

I walked through kitchen door from our garage Saturday afternoon, a little spent from my three hours on the mountain bike. Nate was in the living room watching TV. He called to me as he heard the door shut behind me.

“Hey Dad, do you want to go mountain biking? I just got home but I will be rested enough in an hour or so.”

The smirk on my face as I walked into the living room, a permanent fixture on my face, was on full. Nate looked at me and just said ‘Oh’.

“Yeah, I think I could go again.” I remembered how I felt in the parking lot when I got off of my mountain bike. Yeah, I was a bit tired, but I wanted to ride with my son and I knew I would find the energy to ride with him.

So we went out to Saw Wee Kee to ride the dirt trails again Saturday evening, another three hours of riding. The A & W root beer on the way home was cold and sweet, a stop that could become ritual for Nate and I should our mountain bike rides continue. A light rain had begun to fall, cooling us as we walked around the classic cars that had gathered for cruise night at the A & W.

Yesterday afternoon, before I walked out to the garage to take Nate golfing, I paused to deliver a little message to Miriam. She encourages Nate to go golfing, as she had done yesterday, and to ride bicycles. He needs to be active, lose the weight he has put on. I looked at her and whispered – “You know that golfing is not really what I wanted to be doing today”. She nodded in agreement that she understood. Honestly, I wanted a quiet day to putter around the house, clean the garage, straighten things up, finish that laundry room door project that has been waiting for me. Mir doesn’t often understand me, but this was a time I know she did.

If there is anything I want to happen in my life, it is for people to take a look at my son and say that he is just like his father — and mean that in a very good way. That affects pretty much everything I do, adds an aspect to every success or failure or action in my life. When I lost my job, one of my first thoughts was about how my actions would affect my son, what lesson he would learn from them. If a curse word slips out in front of him, I wonder how that is going to affect him. He definitely reminds of my shortcomings. But I also think about the positive things affect him — my faith in God, exercise and sleep habits, approach to alcohol and other substances (I don’t smoke, rarely drink and never in front of him), my choices for entertainment and what makes me laugh. My desire to provide a positive image to my son, to my children, even has helped me to stay with Miriam during the times when I would rather leave and pursue a relationship better for me. I realize the positive list is a lot longer than I might think, much longer than the negatives. I realize that what I list as positives now are not likely what he will remember years from now.

What he will remember is the time that I have spent with him. That time invested will be the cement in our relationship that will bring him to me when he needs me. It might even be what helps him to become a good man. Anyone who has read my blog knows the struggles I have had with him, the worries that I have. I know he has what it takes to be a very good man, however. I know what I was like when I was his age, know I had my own issues, know also what my own father remembers about those issues. If Dad remembers them, he doesn’t let on. And I know what I remember about him. It is the time he spent with me, continues to give to me, the example that he was and is. I am not even sure what his shortcomings were, if there were any….