I cannot say that my dad was a stereotypical father, doing the things that you might see in commercials or on television shows. He did not read me bedtime stories, play board games, or tuck me in at night. He did not teach me to throw a baseball or take me for walks. He did not help me with my homework or talk to me about boys or dating or growing up. He did take me out driving once when I had my learner’s permit, but the main instruction had been from the required class offered by the high school. No, I cannot say my dad is typical.
My memories of him when I was a kid are minimal. Basically, he worked, a lot, so he was not home that much. But I do have great recollections of watching TV with him in the evenings, as he would unwind from the day. Somehow, the Lady Thunderbirds (a women’s roller derby team) and favorite wrestlers such as Gorgeous George were more exciting to watch when I could cheer them on along with Dad. On weekends, I could help him mix the sugary liquid that would fill the hummingbird feeders hanging in the backyard. My job was to keep an eye out for the little birds, calling out when they were in sight. Along with Mom, we would also feed the birds and squirrels that visited the back yard, loving it if they stayed around long enough to watch them in action.
I have always liked Christmas! One reason was that from a young age—maybe 6 or 7—I was able to travel with Dad to lot after lot, in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We did not really talk strategy, but we knew a good tree when we saw it. And, indeed, when he would carefully place the lights on the tree before we all pitched in to help with the ornaments and icicles, the tree looked glorious. The first year I was an adult living away from home for the holidays, I could feel Dad with me as I selected the perfect tree, all on my own.
But our best adventures by far came when we would take off together on some Nature Photography Expeditions. I had received a Brownie camera as a gift when I was in the sixth grade, and since then always dabbled in taking pictures to capture whatever event was unfolding. Dad, too, enjoyed photography and spent some of his time taking photographs for church directories, an occasional wedding, and some high school year books. But it was the nature photos of flowers and birds and squirrels and deer that fascinated us both. After I moved out on my own, we would make plans to go somewhere together to take pictures.
We did not have to go far, although some of our trips did keep us out overnight. Often it was just the two of us, but—when possible—Mom would join the expedition. We had fun, even as we trudged around in the heat, always seemed to have to walk up hill to get back to the car, or commiserated over the birds that often proved too illusive for our efforts. Back then, before digital cameras, we would eagerly wait to get our photos back, so we could admire each other’s great shots and relive the adventure.
This Father’s Day, Dad is in a Rehab Center, waiting for antibiotics to do their job and eradicate a bad infection. He is frustrated about not being able to go home. I am hoping that the memories of our photo expeditions might help him remember the lessons we learned over the years, together:
- If you want to capture the best photos, you often have to put up with heat, dust, and pesky little bugs.
- No matter what path you take, you will probably be trudging uphill, but at the end of the day—you get some great shots and make it home.
- Patience is one of the best skills of a good photographer—the light will change, the butterfly or bird will stand still eventually, the wind will die down, and we’ll always get home at the end of a good day.
- Enjoying memories and photos long after the shared expedition is an added bonus we can always treasure, even if we cannot go walking as far as we used to, to get the photo.
These lessons hold true, no matter where we wandered: whale watching around Anacapa Island, trekking to the Salton Sea or through the Red Canyon, driving through the Petrified Forest, visiting Yosemite in the winter, or capturing birds and squirrels in action in the back yard. The photos below showcase some of the photos/memories we shared over the years. Dad, I hope they help keep your spirits up as you work to get better and back home. Even though neither of us walks so well anymore, let’s think about planning another expedition, okay?
We took many trips to the Los Angeles County Arboretum (Arcadia, CA). The rose garden is delightful, the peacocks often put on a show, and orchids are in bloom once a year!
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve (Lancaster, CA) is about an hour away from home, but it transports visitors back in time to a less hectic, less populated world. In a good year, the hills are truly alive with color—mostly California Poppies, but also Cream Cups and Lupine and maybe some other blossoms clinging to the hills.
We made one trip to Mono Lake, near Lee Vining, California, stayed for the sunset and then waited and waited and waited for the moonrise. We were not prepared for it to be so many hours later, so we headed back to the car in the dark—wondering if we would ever get there. We did, by the way, but it took quite some time.
We have enjoyed many zoos together. I’m pretty sure it was Dad who stayed with me for hours to watch the baby elephant at the Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago) when I was a kid. But as adults, we have also visited zoos in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Fresno. Capturing shots where the animals do not look closed in and confined is always the goal.
Monterey, California, is also a terrific destination. One time, we took a Wildflower Tour hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On that trip, we toured through the Carmel Valley, finding some wild flowers as well as a lovely little oak grove. A gourmet lunch was served on china with linen table cloths and napkins over picnic tables nestled under a small grove of redwoods. Later we drove down the Big Sur Coastline. On another trip, we stopped and waited and waited and waited to see the butterflies in the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, Pacific Grove, California.
Dad, get better so we can plan another trip! Happy Father’s Day!