Background: For me, Memorial Day presents a moment to reflect on the republic. My father died serving our country when I was 14. It remains a seminal moment in my life that I once struggled to move past and continue to struggle to properly contextualize. He was born on May 25th. The proximity of Memorial Day and his birthday often give cause for me to meditate on the values professed in the creation of this republic.
Often I choose to unplug for a little bit. In this age when democratic populism has overrun our elected body and the explosion of digital media has allowed those that would divide us to weaponize every disagreement into vitriolic tribalism, it's important to unplug. So I choose to detach my cerebral cortex from the mainframe of chaos and let it wander with reflective purpose amidst the grandeur of our wilderness and waterways. It's a choice I make every Memorial Day. To me it's the ideal way to honor my father and to honor the country he died serving.
This past Memorial Day I had a great chance to do just that, and with my family. My mom and step-father, a 30+ year veteran of the Army, joined the girls and I on a James River float from Scottsville to Hardware WMA.
Plus, our 7yr old daughter was going to paddle her own kayak, a Native Watercraft Stingray, for the first time down the James R. Everyone was psyched about that. She crushed it!
Inevitably, whenever we get on the river as a family, the fishing competition starts. My wife hates to lose just as much as I do.
It was to be a losing day for me. But, man. These James River smallies are beautiful, even if they aren't mine.
Having my mother and step-father move to Virginia recently, has immensely enriched our lives. We now have both grandparents within an hours drive of our kids. Studies show that kids raised in the warmth of generational family are better for it. The girls certainly enjoyed having them on the river. From our youngest riding with my mom and wife:
To our oldest having a moment with grandpa (Native Watercraft Manta Ray 12 Kayak) :
The chance to spend time together outdoors as a family is one we cherish. It's one I know y'all cherish as well. It's one of the reasons we all found kayaking, canoeing, etc. Someone took us out, and introduced us to the activity. The inherent benefits soaked into our bones. We understood that there was therapy in turning off the TV, and paddling the rivers. In this wild world it's imperative that we occasionally let the water wipe clean the dirt and mud this world seems intent on slinging.
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times; we only get one spin around on this ride we call life. Make the most of it. Spend it with those you love. Remember why you do all the other things in this life that grant you the special moments. When Memorial Day is observed, I focus on that sentiment. My father gave his life in service to this country. He was a family man and a patriot, devoted to Duty, Honor and Country. Every breathe I get on Memorial Weekend is a testament to the foundation he and my mother laid down. I try to honor that sacrifice with my embrace of freedom, and the love of family that he embodied. This past Memorial Day, I got to observe the holiday with my wife,my kids, my mother and my step-father. It was as close to perfect a moment as this life will give up.