Paying Attention

I spent this evening going through a tub of photos to put together  an album for my son who will be moving up to the north country to be with the woman he loves.

Our life as a family can be defined in three phases. This is best done by geography – Illinois, Oregon, and Virginia. The timelines are a bit uneven, and we’ve been in Virginia longer than Illinois and Oregon combined. The photos I was going through to tonight were primarily the Oregon phase of our lives. The time when he was preschool through fourth grade.

In many ways, these were some of the worst, toughest years because of the mental and emotional problems of the oldest (which have evolved into full-blown schizophrenia). On the other hand, there were some really good times and adventures for a young family. Moments in photographs where the oldest looked like a normal, well-adjusted boy.

I look at these photos and some events are clearly Christmas or birthdays. Scouting pictures are obvious – the uniforms help. Others, the memories are pretty clear: teeball, baseball, Zach’s first golf tournament, hiking Silver Creek Falls when my mom visited us in the “Great Northwet” or the “Great Gray Damp” (she wasn’t a fan). Pictures from our Great American Roadtrip – 3,500 miles from Oregon to Joplin, MO and then north to Minnesota and across with stops in Yellowstone, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower, Grand Coulee, Crater Lake, Dinosaur, and Santa Fe (not in that order).

There were also photos I had no clue about. None. Zilch. Some I can assume I wasn’t there and my wife took the pictures. Others, I can only assume I was tuned out. The sad fact is that I wasn’t always paying attention. I was either too focused on work or various projects. Or just not tuned in and inside my own head. I suppose it is possible that I just don’t remember events from 20 years ago, but it seems I should remember more.

I worry much more about paying attention these days. I’m much more present than I used to be, I know this. I spend time noticing things I don’t recall noticing before. Of course, maybe I just don’t remember doing these things before. I don’t know. I just hate the fact that I wasn’t always present.


Lots of pictures, clearly not taken by me, show me walking with the boys. Holding the youngest’s hand, pointing things out, and generally engaged. These are the pictures I hope mean the most to him. Looking at digital photos in the Virginia phase, 14 years of Scouting and outdoor activities have left a great history of adventure and comradeship for the two of us. Lots of stories to remind each other over the coming years.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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