I used to take the boys for a walk, but now I just go for a walk with the boys. They do their own thing and I do mine, sort of. The fact is that much of the time I watch them, each in their cocoon of boundless energy, and easily imagine being one of them running, jumping, and climbing everywhere.
I bite my tongue as I see them taking risks on the rocks and cliff-sides down by the river, only shouting warnings when I’m sure they’ve gone too far.
I don’t go down to the river with them, yet, as I watch from above on the pathway, the smile on my face is probably visible from across the wide expanse of river. The excitement and enthusiasm of the boys is infectious. I’m with them, vicariously, and it is so much fun. Even if my knees and back could tolerate climbing and jumping over the rocks along the river, I wouldn’t want to interfere with their play like I might have as a younger father.
Their ages are perfect at the moment for enjoying such places together. The youngest can keep up, just, and the oldest is still interested in real play. I’m not sure how long this camaraderie will last, but while it’s here it is a joy for me to be around.
I say it’s time to go home, having to repeat that request by yelling at least three times to get their attention, but then they all climb over the rocks and run up to the pathway with abandon. As we make our way home little racing competitions take place. They hang back as I walk and then burst into a sprint in order to see who can touch me first. I wait in anticipation, not turning around, and always report that it felt like a tie to me. This seems to encourage yet another sprinting competition to see if one can truly win. I am thinking that they are beginning to distrust my decision, but nothing is said, only more laughter and argument about who is the fastest.
I never did these things with my brother. Mine was much older and in a different world, so I was like an only child. Being amongst my grandsons gives me a bit of an inkling as to what could have been and the vicarious living I do with them feels good.