Sunday, June 20, 2010

Black Flies and Fatherhood

Long before we had children, I knew he'd be a good dad.

Maybe it was the way he always took care of me, packing my favorite trail mix along on our long hikes and making sure I had everything I could need.

Maybe it was because he knew how to fix my car.

Maybe it was because he always put me first.

Maybe it was because I felt safe with him

My now husband then boyfriend will tell you a story, one that happened long, long ago (perhaps in 1989 - so yes, practically the Stone Ages) where I tested his patience - not for the first time, but one of the more memorable times.

We were hiking (this was back in the day before we had children with busier social obligations than ourselves) a local mountain (not a Mt. Everest type elevation, mind you - more of a "day hike" elevation) towards the end of July. Now. There is one thing I dislike about summer hiking: bugs. The funny thing about bugs and our northwest climate is that you never know when they are going to be bad. Take now, for instance. We've had a cold, wet, wet, wet spring and ordinarily by the end of June, we'd be covered in mosquito bites if we ventured outside past sundown. But this year, different story. Which makes me wonder and worry because I fear we're in for it sooner than later.

But anyway...

Back to 1989.

I was the only girl in our little expedition. No problemo! I'm a trooper, I can keep up. I was even outpacing some of the guys in our group when we got above the tree line. Everything was going swimmingly until I got the first bite.

Mind you, we're not talking about mosquitos here so I'm not sure why I even rambled on about them earlier - we're talking black flies. Biting black flies. I don't know if it was just me, or the fact that I liberally applied baby powder scented Secret to my underarms before leaving that morning (I do have standards of personal hygiene after all, wilderness or no wilderness), but I was getting extra special treatment from every biting black fly within a mile.

They were in my eyes.

They were in my ears.

They were crawling on my neck and underneath my socks.

They were even in my bra.

If you haven't had biting black flies in your bra, you simply have not lived.

Like I mentioned, I'm a trooper. Rain? No problem. Cold? No problem. Blisters? No problem. Biting black flies? Major dilemma.

I tried for as long as I could to tough it out. I willed for a net to fall from the sky that would shield my entire body from the nuisance flies but nothing happened. I poured every drop of bug repellent on every inch of exposed skin. I honestly gave it my best effort.

Until I didn't.

And I ran in the other direction (that would be DOWN the hill) flailing my arms and screaming like a hysterical...girl.

I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to freak out. I wanted to be tough like the boys I was hiking with, who obviously didn't smear half a stick of baby powder scented Secret under their arms and hence, weren't being bitten to death by these black flies.

What did my now husband then boyfriend do? He ran after me and wrapped his arms around me.

"Shhhhhhhh." He said calmly in my ear.

Between spurts of not being able to catch my breath and the snot running out of my nose from all of the crying, I'm sure I looked awesome - just like my idol Molly Ringwald.

He told the rest of our group we'd meet them at the trail head, took my hand, and led me away from the black flies. The lower we climbed, the less flies there were until finally we were in the clear. Or at least I was, with my definitely not smelling like body odor armpits. We spent the rest of the day hiking around the lower trails, picking dead black flies out of my socks, and picnicking until the rest of our group returned.

Nobody teased me. Nobody gave me a hard time. Sure, this group of guys were like family to me, and I was sure I would be in for a round of teasing or at least be forced to do a keg stand later...but none of that happened.

I can't remember the names of everyone we were with that day. I can't remember how much time passed until they got back. I can't remember what we ate or what songs we listened to on the radio. It's safe to assume that we were drinking Schmidt beer because we were young, broke, desperate and didn't know any better. But I do remember that feeling of safety that my now husband then boyfriend provided.

I remember his voice.

I remember his strength.

I remember how he made me laugh, even when I was having a panic attack.

And I think it was probably then, in the woods back in 1989, that I knew he'd be a pretty darn good dad, even though he didn't know it yet.

Happy Father's Day to my now husband then boyfriend. I'm such a lucky gal.


Karen said...

<3 Beautiful.

Kendra said...

What a beautiful story. Happy Father's Day!