Right now, I’m sitting on an island in the middle of the lake near where I grew up. For the first time, I’ve kayaked out by myself, and I’m setting up camp to stay the night. It’s all so familiar and so foreign.
I grew up on the lake; for my family, spending the first warm weekends here was like a religion, a ritual that just went unspoken. We just did it. My dad made it that way – he was happiest here, and because he was, so were we.
I pulled up the car to drag the boat in, and as soon as I got out of the car, I said to Taylor, “Do you smell that? It smells like home.” It’s the smell of freshly bloomed trees mingled with fresh water and mud. We had about an hour and a half until sunset – just enough to paddle out to the island to sit and enjoy the view from our camping loveseat (courtesy of my little sis as my birthday gift). As I paddled out, I listened to the familiar sound of the waves lapping up on my boat, the distant hums of engines in the distance making their way to their docks as they caught the last glimpse of a beautifully orange Saturday sunset in the bay.
It’s quiet, if you’re used to it. Others will hear the bass of the speakers on speedboats, others will hear the roaring of an engine starting. I hear nothing. It’s all the ambient noise of my upbringing, and it’s been years since I’ve been able to enjoy it and appreciate it since Dad died.
Taylor brought me here last fall; we had been friends for years, and he wanted me to experience some serenity in the midst of the chaos. The moment I hit the water, a peace came over me that words can’t fully describe. I knew Dad was here, and I knew he was with me in the middle of my pain.
I’m back here tonight. And it is the same sense of comfort I felt then – the gentle lapping of the waves, the way the sun slowly dips beyond the trees to paint a spectrum of colors that no man can truly recreate…he is here. This is Dad’s Heaven, and by being here, I get to feel a tiny bit of it. Whatever confusion, pain, and joy in my life, this transcends it.
I miss him so, so much. I miss nights like this most when we would drop anchor and watch the sunset with the Eagles playing quietly in the background not saying a word, letting the waves speak a conversation that maybe we fully couldn’t have then.
That conversation continues still.