When Friday came, I honestly contemplated faking sick that so that we could stay home and catch up on projects. But Wendy wouldn’t have it, and at 6:30 Friday night, I found myself on the road to Bruneau Sand Dunes in southern Idaho, which houses the tallest dunes in North America.
I can hardly express how happy I am that we went. We had a wonderful time, and it completely restored me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The cell phone reception was very spotty, so I ended up just turning off my phone completely. That also meant no texts or Facebook or school work were possible. It was so incredibly relaxing to be able just to unplug and enjoy some family time without interruption or distraction.
Once we set up our tent and ate a little bit, we walked over to the observatory and got to look at the Hercules cluster of stars through a huge telescope. Smaller outside telescopes were also set up to view the moon, Venus, and Jupiter (with four of its moons). We then went back to camp and sat around a beautiful fire, which Isaac was able to start using just a survival kit. That was a high point for him because he had saved up to buy the kit with his own money earlier this year.
Then, after eating as many variations of partially-burned, partially-melted chocolate that we could concoct in one night, we all went to bed.
For the next morning, we planned on going to the smallest of the sand dunes and sliding down it on sleds. But before the rest of the group was awake, Isaac woke me up and asked if we could try to hike up the tallest of the dunes together. Of course I wanted to, so off we went.
Our first problem was that we didn’t know how to get there. Our second was that we needed to walk. It wasn’t the longest walk of my life, but it felt like a lot of time wasted just to try to get the real hike started. Plus we got lost a bit along the pond that sits in the middle of the group of dunes. As it turns out, the pond is also an incubator for millions of mosquitoes. We were harassed constantly and could never stand still for an instant without getting multiple bites. In the time it took me just to take this picture of Isaac, I had at least six mosquitoes land on my arms and neck.
It was pretty much the most fun I’ve had in months.
As we were working our way up the initial (and steepest) ascent of our morning hike, Isaac turned to me and said, “Do you remember the story from the Bible where Isaac has to walk up a mountain with his dad so that his dad can kill him?”
I laughed and replied that I did. When I inquired why he would ask this, he smiled and said something like, “Just wondering why no one else came.”
We both laughed and continued. But as we went along, I started thinking of Abraham and how painful the long walk must have been as he brought Isaac up mount Moriah. This is one of these Old Testament accounts I’ll never totally understand. In some ways I no longer even try to understand it completely. I suppose that the older I get, the less I expect to perfectly understand every single thing about the universe. There really are mysteries.
But I do understand what it means to love a child completely. I understand what it feels like to love someone more than you love yourself. To love them more than you even knew anyone could love anyone else. And I do know that Abraham felt that way about his son Isaac, just like I feel that way about mine.
That got me thinking about my two kids and how ridiculously amazing they are. When I was a pre-teenager, I was a disaster. I was struggling with school and out of sync socially. I had no real interests or hobbies. And I was horrible….just horrible…to my siblings.
Both my kids are smarter and nicer and more engaged in life than I ever even dreamed of being. We recently ran into some school work I did at about their ages and it was startling to see how far behind I was compared to where they are.
I don’t suppose there is likely any satisfaction greater than that which comes from watching your children grow into beautiful, talented, kind people who have their own unique interests and talents. This has been a year where each of the kids has begun to find things that they are passionate about. Olivia has grown leaps and bounds in choir and on the piano. She took up volleyball recently and showed us a whole new facet of her personality that we never knew was hiding in there. Isaac has also grown musically, has added other sports to his love of jujitsu, and has become immersed in mathematics and computer programming.
As I got swept up in this joyous reflection, I realized that Isaac and I were very near the summit of the tallest dune. He had woken us up and pushed for us to go. He had lead the way up the dune the entire time. He had proven to have more energy and endurance than I did that morning. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
“Isaac,” I called out, “I really do love you so much.”
“OK, Dad.” He replied. “Now you really are making me nervous.”