I climbed a mountain for him

This week, Ben is at camp. More specifically, he is with his Boy Scout Troop at Camp Falling Rock in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. We dropped him and his patrol off Sunday afternoon, shortly after returning from a 4th of July holiday that saw us spend a few days in Illinois with the family. And while I enjoyed that, and Monday's zoo day with Tanner and Little Red, I was anxious to see how my middle son was doing with camp life.

We arrived just after 6 pm and began walking the winding trail back to where Ben and the other Troop 778 scouts were set up. Ben told us he was a little homesick, and wanted to come with us when we left. He told us he had a challenging tent mate, and that he was not a fan of the shower facilities. Pretty routine gripes from a first time camper. But he also said they were having fun, hiking and hanging out. We explained that was normal and that he should really see it through. His scoutmaster Dave (one of my closest friends for more than 10 years) made the same recommendation to my son, and he begrudgingly agreed.

Ben next asked if we could go to a different part of the camp. The amphitheater, located on the opposite side of the grounds, was to be the site of several scout ceremonies and a bonfire. Being that I already felt a little guilty about dashing his hope to end camp early, I wasn't about to disappoint him again. I asked Mr. Burnham if he was going, to which he replied that he was going to hang out with the boys at the camp site. Then I heard someone else mutter something about Cardiac Hill as I walked away.

By the time we got back to the center of the campgrounds, Tiffany was spent. She asked to wait in the car while Ben, Tanner, and I went on to our destination. The three of us set off to find the crowd, which we could not see from the start of the path.

I guess it was probably 1/4 of a mile down the dirt road that I realized there was going to be a problem. See, since we had taken our first step at the head of the trail, we had walked downhill. Straight downhill. We reached a leveling off point and I looked back...............up the path. And it suddenly dawned on me that I would have to climb back up the hill when we returned. A daunting thought, let me tell you. But I looked back towards the destination and realized it was just a slight downhill grade in front of us. No problem, I thought, I am up for the challenge. And we continued to walk.

When we got to the second major drop in elevation I groaned. I could see the amphitheater halfway down but saw no signs of life. No fire, no people, nothing. The words "what the heck" came out of my mouth and I saw the disappointment on Ben's face. But almost immediately we heard very faint cheering, way off in the distance. And by distance, I mean way further down the hill, at a point we could not even see yet.

The last thing in this world I wanted to do was take one more step down this path. Especially knowing that each one I took probably meant 3 coming back. But he asked me if we could keep going. And I could not say no. So I took a deep breath and kept walking.

When we got to what I am now convinced was the center of the Earth, we encountered a covered bridge. It was so cool, old and rickety and everything a covered bridge should be. And just on the other side? A lake. It was gorgeous. And crowded with people watching the ceremony. We stayed a few minutes and watched as new inductees joined the Order of the Broken Arrow. Awesome. Wait, how did those cars get over there into that parking............never mind, back up the hill.

As we began to scale the mountain, I was thinking about what was important. My son, who wanted to go to this ceremony and thanked me repeatedly for going with him. My wife, who would not have been able to make the trip with the health issues she is facing currently. And breathing. So important to breath. Slow shallow breaths. I don't remember this hill being so steep. Or the path so long. What is this the ironman climb? And how did those cars get down there? So glad I don't smoke anymore or I would be dead right now. Wow, I don't think I am gonna make it back to the top without being airlifted like those people on the side of Mt. Everest. This feels like I am climbing Everest. Wow...........ok, made it to the top. Wow. Never ever again!.

Then Ben saw me, hacking and wheezing, and said thanks Dad, it means a lot that you went with me. TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!

Ben will always remember his first week at camp. He will remember the spiders. The crazy tent mate. The chocolate cake Tiff brought him on parents night. And he will always remember our hike up Cardiac Hill. And to make him happy, I would do it 100 times more.

A quick note, today the world lost a good dude. James David "JD" Severt passed this morning. I didn't know him well, as I could count the times we hung out by the fire at Ralph's house on less than one hand. But Ralph held him as a friend for longer than he has me, more than 23 years. And, as I can attest, Ralph has impeccable taste in friends. So if this man made such an impression on my brother that he kept him around that long, heck even based a character in his book off the guy, then he must have been a good dude indeed. So I salute you JD. Rest in Peace. And I will pray for the pain to ease for those who mourn you, including the guy we both have the pleasure to call friend.

Day # 493. When I pick Ben up on Saturday morning,the first thing he will do is shower, shower again, then shower again. After that, we will celebrate his 14th birthday with his friends. I love being his Dad, it is good to be me.


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