It rained last night and inside this soggy little tent in my back yard a father-son, childhood-to-boyhood rite-of-passage happened.
My stepson, Greg, and his family came to visit his mother and me, and yesterday their older boy, Jakob, turned seven.
Jakob’s big wish was to camp out with his Dad, the whole night, in our back yard.
It was 45°, windy, threatening rain and almost dark. While Jakob finished his dinner, Greg and I pitched the tent and Greg laid their campfire.
As we worked I recalled a sunny afternoon 61 years earlier. Dad and I set up my new “two-man mountain tent” in our back yard. I was eight.
My first camp-out!
Me and Dad! Yeah!
A swirl of memories and emotions – excited and anxious butterflies in my stomach thinking about sleeping out in the dark, huge pines above me, shadowy animal shapes grinding in the wind.
Dad said if I had to pee, I’d crawl outside and pee on a tree (like real woodsmen!)
And since Mom was sleeping inside, it was gonna be just us men.
Down under all that excitement, as I got into my sleeping bag, my kid imagination filled the night with nameless fears. I hoped I wouldn’t chicken out later and run back inside.
As Greg and I set things up he talked about Jakob’s coming adventure. He said Jakob had been putting on a brave face during the day and as it got dark he could see he was getting nervous.
I could relate.
Dinner over and camp set, the last thing I did was run an electric cord to the tent. Greg said they wanted to watch a movie on his laptop before going to sleep.
Jakob settled into his camp chair and after getting the fire going, Greg sat next to him. They started to talk softly.
Three guys. Two chairs. One conversation.
I hovered, odd-man-out, feeling a little melancholy, and not wanting my camp-out link to my Dad to end.
Suddenly the wind shifted and I sucked in a lungful of smoke. I took it as Mother Nature’s cue that it was time for me to boogie.
Envying Greg his connection with his son, I was glad to have relived some of my boyhood with my Dad. Leaving them to talk about father/son things, I slipped unnoticed into the house.
Later, as we got ready for bed, my wife peeked through the blinds and in the faint glow of the laptop cherished the pleasure of seeing her son and grandson just “being.”
As I lay in bed I played a memory movie of my time with my son, Chris, now 35.
He was eight when his mother and I divorced. I flowed in and out of my two children’s lives – always connected but missing the day-to-day.
Even though he, my daughter and I hiked some of the Appalachain Trail together, my son and I never camped out in the back yard.
Thoughts of regrets and missed opportunities.
Today I work with other people’s regrets and missed opportunities.
Through my D-I-Y résumé-writing books, I help job seekers avoid regret by taking advantage of opportunities to present themselves as “Ideal Candidates” each time they apply for meaningful work they want to do.
When I entered the job market four decades ago Dad wrote my first résumé. It opened the door to my career. I’ve done the same for Chris, Greg and my daughter, Jen. And when it’s time, I know each will teach my system to their kids.
Generation to generation, we do the best we can while we can, and hope it has been enough.
And Jakob. He did it! He camped out, the whole night.
He went to sleep in childhood and awoke in boyhood.
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