Al makes it up to the top
Not everyone gets two Fathers, I came as close as a guy can get to that.
Russell and myself embarked on a winter adventure into the high peaks region of the Catskills both to spend valuable time together and to fulfill a promise.
Russ's Father was the kind of man other guys just gravitate to. A real man's man and with no wonder. He was giving, kind and well just plain "fatherly" everyone that knew him loved him and I was no exception. Survivor of WWII, he walked with a limp but never let that keep him from the things he loved. Al was an outdoors man, he hunted, fished year round and loved a game of golf whenever he could, that is until two open heart surgeries stopped the hunting. But ever the fisherman, he did what he could. His Boys were his best friends and if they had anything in common it was the outdoors. I think Al's sport of choice was Ice fishing. It was a ritual that he looked forward to each winter.
Russ and I would make our trips to Mt Slide in the Catskills each fall/winter and bring back photos and stories of the beauty to be found just a few miles up state. We often spoke of getting him to the top for a glimpse of this wild and wonderful area and he said more then once that he would love to see it. Al's health made such trips impossible but Russ and I planned to wheel him up on a modified game cart if it became necessary. Time passed and the trip never happened Al's health failed over time and finally won the fight and we lost him to what we hope will be a better life, full of large pickerel and a never ending cup of hot coffee.
Heaven is different to all of us.
Al's last days on this world were full of the sites and sounds of his loving family. This was one man that knew and felt comforted by those closest to him. To pass with that knowledge is a gift. Of course his gift to us was the man himself. Speaking for myself, I am a better man having had him in my life. I felt proudest when he was proud of me and I felt lowest when I let him down, I'm sorry to say I did let him down. But I always felt like one of the family, loved and guided, mentored and scolded. He was a Father to us all in the fullest definition of the word. My children even looked on him as Grandfather. That pleased us both.
After his passing Russell came to me with his plan to "get Al to the Catskills". Our lives were as most people's, hectic and hard to get synchronized for a trip to the high peaks but after a bit of planning and a work schedule that finally made it possible Al would make it to the Mountains.
This trip was our winter day's adventure,
The day started with a cool crisp sunrise and a blue sky that was streaked with long white clouds. I picked up Russ and we headed North. I can't begin to describe the conversations he and I have, we share a strange humor and being alone with no one to sneer and raise their eyebrow at us is very liberating. When you get a couple of guys together that know each other this well and for this long, there's more inside joking then the average person would put up with. You know, real quality time. We talked about family, work, the weather, our route on this trip and anything and everything. Not Al. That topic would come up all in it's own time.
The ledges looking over these mountains are a ring side seat on the most awe inspiring views of the Hudson valley. The lack of leaves gives the impression that things are closer then they appear, truth is the mountains have tall wide shoulders that stretch for miles. Al would have loved them.
It was a quick but heart felt ceremony, if you want to call it that. A moment to remember our Father and a knowing look at each other. a beer shared by brothers and a smile at the wind as a pinch of Al's ashes drifted across the hill tops.
As you can see by the snow accumulating on my hat, the weather hit us full force and the snow obscured the distant mountains. Russ pulled pairs of ice creepers from his pack to assist with our descent, ironical they were Al's from his days of ice fishing. We retreated down the ridge taking our time over the thick snow covered ice. Russ took his turn hitting the ground after a slip but only hurt his pride. The 4x4 had thermoses of hot coffee and sandwiches and we rested our bones and laughed as we braved the unsanded back roads of Frost valley. Tired and sore I dropped Russ at home and started for my own house to lick my wounds and upload these words.
Thanks for sharing them with us.
I miss Al and expect I always will, with the fondest of memories and the deepest regard for all he was and still is to me and mine. I love you, thanks for sharing yourself with us so freely.