I have the great blessing of having a father who has shared the things he loves with me.
When I was a boy, we went fishing, hunting, and boating more times than I can remember. From a very early age I joined my father on his deer hunts, struggling to stay still (OK, I probably didn’t try that hard). He’s taken me offshore, inshore, and out of state on objectively amazing fishing trips. And I’ve had more than my fair share of opportunities to learn a skill – boating – that most young men long to have.
But as many young men do, I grew to resent these things as I grew older. I took my father’s loves for granted and then decided they were as much the enemy as he was. So I grudgingly went along (and didn’t pay attention) or stayed home to play video games, etc.
It was only after I got out of the house, worked for my own life, and had my own adventures (and thereby realized my father was not The Enemy) that I started to understand the things he loved.
Today I took his boat out for a run with a friend – only the second time I’ve done it as the sole captain. It was thrilling. Even though I’ve done the trip dozens upon dozens of times with my father over the years, this felt different. It was my adventure, to screw up or to win.
And because it was mine, it was now a gift I could give to my friend, who was getting his first taste of the Atlantic ocean. I proudly gave my friend a tour of our river and the stories and skills of the trade that my father once tried to impress on me.
I noticed wild birds more vividly – wild ducks, sea ducks, sandpipers, pelicans, a heron. We had four or five dolphin sightings (a common enough occurrence but still new every time). And we relished in the jumping, soaring motion of the boat over the breakers where the Atlantic met the coast.
Looking back I see that I had the same frame of mind my father must have felt all those times he took me and my brother out on the water. He was trying to give us all of these amazing gifts, gifts he had learned to love from all of his own adventures on the water as a young man.
Now that I’m able to give the gift, too, I think I understand him better. I’ve only been able to give the gifts by making them mine. I didn’t understand or appreciate them before because I hadn’t had those same adventures yet.
Go there and do the bold or scary or difficult thing that will let you give your gifts to others. Then see if you have any room left to learn how to give the gifts your loved ones have given you. Then maybe you will understand – and even love – what your parents loved.