A Meadow Walk

Parenting has been often on my mind these days, perhaps because I have lately been reminded of my own inadequacies as a father. The task of raising one child is challenging enough; to raise one while your other children watch on brings an amateur audience of critics and imitators. One fears what behaviors they may learn from each other; I fear more what behaviors they may learn from me: how I mediate conflict, how I handle stress, how I judge between their competing claims and ever-righteous indignation at the indignities and injustices to which they are exposed.

When we were but a small family of three, my son and I would often take walks in the Meadows, a picturesque English park outside downtown Edinburgh. With the peaks of Arthur’s Seat above us, we would walk and talk together, asking questions, sharing stories of our day and making plans for the future—which, for a two-year-old, meant plans for dinner, wrestling, and books. They were quintessential family pictures and among my favorite memories. We have long since moved on from those days in the Meadows, yet our walks today, though less frequent, hold no less meaning; rather, their value grows with the compounding interest of time and the rarity of deposit.

This poem reminds me that while the landscape remains the same, the characters change. Time moves the pieces, transfers the roles, and ages the agents. But the needful things never change—family, togetherness, learning, maturity. We are merely generational players on the wider stage, simultaneously insignificant and indispensable.

Like me, my son will struggle with fatherhood, will be challenged by the rigors of battle and the fears of self-doubt. While consciously focused on the growth of his own son, he will be unconsciously doing a great deal of growing himself. For if my son will but one day walk faithfully with his son, then I have done my duty well. And perhaps both of us will grow into a greater image of the Father.

At first, he walks beside,

his golden paw fit tight in mine,

craning up to see through eyes

that understand angelic heights

he cannot reach, while I’m inclined

   to quake with doubt.

But then, he aches to force

a separate walk—no hands, of course—

before breaking for the slope,

and I squeeze wisdom from this stone

in vain before he stands alone

   to race the steppes.

And now, a quiet gait,

filling the silence that I then craved

with guilty calls to set my pace

with his, his smooth, tall legs glazed

bronze with youth, my own neck pained

   to see how he sees.

One day, when shuffling

with titanium aid, I’ll pause to think

of him, and these collected sheaves;

perhaps then I’ll not fear to blink

nor walk alone in fields unseen—

   each day a breath.

2 thoughts on “A Meadow Walk

  1. From my view, you have done a remarkable job as a father. You have made time for each precious child; more time than I felt I could due to pressures of work. I am so glad your mother was able to be available for parental involvement when I could not.
    You have been blessed immeasurably, and are a blessing to so many others. I pray for you daily. Keep up the good work!
    P.s.: I could not read your poem until I opened the posting in the Web browser, and when I clicked to leave this reply.
    P.p.s: If you fall out of any more trees, you will need that titanium aid sooner than you think. 🙂

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