In early October, I had the pleasure of taking our youngest son, Griffin, on a fishing trip down the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River. It’s an adventure I have experienced a handful of times and always promised him for his 12th birthday. Though it poured rain for most of the trip, I can honestly say it was one of the most heartwarming experiences of my nearly 50 years, and something neither of us will soon forget.
In addition to otters, eagles and even a salmon stealing seal, we caught a wide range of fish including a 30-inch steelhead and a sturgeon. We spent 3.5 days in solitude taking in the beauty of the nature but also each other’s company. Having this one-on-one time with my “favorite human” brought a sense of peace, if only for a moment, to our chaotic world.
To say the least, seeing things from a 12-year old’s perspective is interesting. I’m certain I asked more questions than he wanted, and he definitely grunted at me in return, more times than I hoped for. We played cards, tossed a football around, had sweet conversations; no devices or other digital distractions. The other clients on the trip were enjoying themselves as much as we were and hearing them connect with Griffin about life, opportunity and also gratitude did not fall on deaf ears. I would like to think of myself as a pretty engaged mom – one who plays with her kids, supporting them in all their activities and adventures but it didn’t really sink in until a handful of more seasoned anglers (i.e. 70+ years old) commented more than once on what a special time this was for my son and me. A couple of other moms similar to my age were there, but without their kids, and commented on what a great experience this was, and they looked forward to doing the same with their kiddos someday.
In addition to some heart racing rapids and endless beauty, we also were witness to the reality that your life can be changed in a split second. A week and a half ahead of our departure, this section of the Rogue had claimed someone’s life. We only knew what we had read in the headlines about the 46-year-old man from Colorado, whose name was Dave. He had slipped into the water trying to dislodge his boat from a rock. We also knew the attempts to recover him had been unsuccessful thus far. For obvious reasons, my husband had apprehension about Griffin and I coming upon him. Having seen victims of drowning and other trauma, he knew it wasn’t something either of us would ever be able to unsee.
Throughout our first day we saw a couple of shrines along the bank where Dave was honored by a loved one and each time, we talked about the sadness of losing a family member, but also the way it must have felt to not yet have closure because he had yet to be recovered. Griffin seemed beyond his years in comprehension, which wasn’t all that surprising given past conversations we have had about respecting the river, knowing the dangers associated with a trip like this and also understanding the cycle of life in the flesh and spirit.
Within an hour or so from the end of our first day, Dave was found. The boat ahead of us had gotten him to shore and radioed upstream with the announcement. A couple members of our crew assisted in preserving the dignity of the deceased man, as we all made our way past. In an instant, Griffin and I agreed we wanted to pay our respects to this man and from the corner of my eye when I saw my son remove his hat, place it over his heart and bow his head ever so slightly it was in that moment I knew he really did “get it.”
Years ago, when we first spoke about this trip it was always intended as a right of passage for our son, in celebration of transitioning from a little boy into a young man. Little did we know all that would be unpacked. It was surreal, definitely sad but also quite special. We finished the float in silence, no doubt lumps in our throats and when my eyes couldn’t hold on to the tears for a moment longer, I could feel a heart connection between Griff and I even though no words were spoken.
When our trip was over, I found myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to experience such a rich time with our son and while the intention was for Griffin to receive the gift, I definitely felt like I was on the receiving end of this special adventure.