I didn’t want to be awake.
It was the first full day of our little family vacation and I was not happy about the 5:30 AM wake-up crawl. (“Wake-Up Crawl”: Those early mornings wake-ups where you find yourself swarmed by hungry children in search of breakfast.) Both kids were awake and already going stir crazy inside the confines of the little room in which we were comfortably tucked.
I was comfortable, anyways. Or I had been comfortable, rather.
Afraid that they might wake everyone else up, I leapt (read: lurched) out of bed and quickly ushered them upstairs and outside into the still-cool morning air. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a fair amount of grumpy, internalized grumbling eating away at my already less-than-chipper mood as we set off on a walk together.
We were staying at my grandparent’s house for this portion of our trip. Theirs is a house and property I know well. It’s a house they built themselves when my mom was still just a child, and it sits on land they’ve had even longer than that. Cattle and corn and wide open pasture populate the portions of this universe that aren’t dominated by the vast blue country sky. It’s beautiful, rugged country that has served as a willing host for many a childhood adventure.
The long driveway stretched out in front of us as Jeremiah took off full-tilt into the sunshine and Katie plodded along happily just in front of her bleary-eyed, foggy-brained father.
Although I was resistant at first, the early morning rays began to break through my sleep-deprived shell as I watched my children venture down the same long dirt driveway that I had wandered down many times over the years.
This was the road on which I learned to ride a bike, thanks to the helpful tenacity of two particularly determined cousins. The same road I was riding when I took a blind corner too fast and crashed into a large John Deere tractor. The road where we raced go-karts and jumped four-wheelers (and got grounded from riding the four-wheeler). The same road we cousins few would trudge down when finally heading in for dinner after long days filled with exploration.
A long road full of memories, a long road traveled with friends and family. A long road that never felt lonely, even when I walked it by myself. It’s just a driveway, but it has come to embody so much more than that over the years.
Even though it tends to blast past me faster than I can comprehend, life has moments where it feels pretty similar to a long dirt road. There are dry spells when it’s difficult to see through the dust that’s been kicked up. It can get muddy and messy when the storms come. It’s often bumpy and it can appear to drag on forever with no end in sight. Sometimes it can feel very lonely.
But walking that long driveway with my kids helped me remember that it doesn’t have to be that way. The long roads don’t have to be empty and lonely. As I watched my two rambunctious kiddos cruise down the way, I was reminded of how my road has been – and still is – a blessed one since I have had friends and family walking with me along the way.
It reminded me that, while I can’t make a perfect road for their little feet, I can help ensure that their long, bumpy, imperfect paths are roads marked by the love and support of a dad who is willing to walk alongside them.
It all started when I began traveling that driveway as a young toddler and, in a small way, started smoothing it out for them. It continues now when I make the decision, each and every day, to be ready and willing to navigate life with them.
Even – and often especially – when that means dragging my stubborn self out of bed at 5:30 AM on the first day of our vacation.