When my wife Marilynne and I had our first and only child, Matthew, I was working in advertising and she was a medical technologist at a nearby hospital full time. As Matt got into school age, she cut back her hours and worked a couple of days during the week and every other weekend. So on those weekends I then had the fatherly duty and privilege of spending those days with Matt. Among my favorite things to do with Matt was to get in the car and see where it would take us, usually for jaunts in and around Warren County, New Jersey, where we lived at that time. We might find ourselves hiking the trails of the Delaware Water Gap, sharing a lunch of boiled hot dogs, sauerkraut, pickle slices and birch beer at Hot Dog Johnny’s in Buttzville, gazing at the huge trout at the hatchery in Oxford or finding ourselves at any of a hundred  hitherto-unknown destinations. I loved these father-son adventures or, as Matt and I referred to them, “abenchirs,” in emulation of how he would pronounce the word as a two-year-old. The word and the tradition continued for many years, though of course fewer and further between as Matt got into the inevitable distractions of adolescence and now, adulthood.

One tradition in particular we shared after moving to Pennsylvania in 1998 was to paddle the twelve-mile run from Hamburg to Reading, Pennsylvania down the Schuylkill River, usually on Memorial Day weekend in my green fiberglass canoe. We would fish and paddle and occasionally capsize and finally come to the parking lot where Marilynne would be waiting to take our exhausted selves home. Later in life we would sometimes go on one of my friend John's lifelong traditions, an annual fishing trip to Ontario, Canada.

Matt is now an adult living a few hours away by car. He holds down a full-time job and records music but we keep in touch and see him several time a year. But the easy spontaneity and frequent bonding we once shared on our abenchirs are largely just memories now (though we occasionally rent a boat at the Jersey shore or share a parasailing exploit now and then). This morning, as is my habit, I took my camera gear for a ride and once again found myself standing in the pre-dawn, silently awe-stricken at the beauty surrounding me and preparing to try to do it justice. As I waited for the sunrise and watched the gathering cast of clouds and birds and anticipated the inevitable conversion of blue light to gold my thoughts wandered again to those times spent together with Matt and I felt my throat tighten and sadness start to grip me; sadness for times now gone and opportunities missed, perhaps forever.

But then it struck me. Our abenchirs live on each time I stand in nature and comprehend the beauty and mystery that surrounds us. And, blessed with the same curiosity and excitement Matt and I shared earlier on,  I now get to share my discoveries with people, many of whom I do not know but with which I have much in common. And I realize that, even if Matt were a world away I could never feel closer to him or more grateful for those times together than during these precious hours.

Father and Son - Canada 2011

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  • Mary Di Parisi Romond

    on March 8, 2020

    Chris you are a beautiful worrier as well as an amazing photographer. The memories of raising our children, will forever be engraved in our hearts and minds, as as KahilI Gibran said ...
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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