The day he was born, I walked outside with my tools and began to dig. I wasn’t sure why I was digging. I simply knew I must break into the hard ground to make it something it was not.
I wasn’t digging a hole. Rather I was preparing a smooth surface, free from obstacles, small and large. Daily I tore into the ground, breaking rocks into small pieces, cutting down trees, and tearing out roots that would find their way to the surface again. Sometimes my boy would work alongside me, not knowing what we were building or why, but glad to be with me and a part of the task.
I don’t remember the day I realized we were constructing some sort of path. Perhaps it was when I saw that it was not deep enough for a foundation and too long for a garden. The path was wide and never meandered. It was smooth and level.
There were difficult years, particularly when hills had to be cut through. But time and patience saw them open wide and finally welcome the path as an old friend.
A few weeks ago, a little more than eighteen years after I began this project, I realized what it was. It was when my eldest son began to gather his things in boxes. And one by one, he placed them at spot where my work began. His belongings were all there – his instruments, his books, his trophies, his mattress – stacked up at the path’s starting point. As he stood there, tall and manly, he looked down the path beyond its end and toward the horizon, bright with the morning son.
Then it came to me. There before us was a runway, wide and long and smooth. And he, with an eager heart and a long wingspan, was ready for takeoff.
This morning, we will load the truck and Hunter will be moving into his own apartment. For the first time in all of his years, he will be leaving to return only for visits. While my grief is profound, it is overwhelmed by gratitude for his tenure with us and with hope for all of his adventure-filled flights to come.
I can hear the pilot’s voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for liftoff.” It is a voice I have dreaded since the day he entered this world. And it is a voice that I embrace for all that will be his.
-Al Andrews, a grateful father