06 Oct They melt me…

[From my column in Gig Harbor Life]

Wind whipped across white-capped Lake Roosevelt, pushing our suddenly adrift vessel toward a rocky shore.

While my wife and kids watched in dismay, I clung to a mooring rope—straining to halt the rental houseboat.

Upon seeing me dragged neck deep into the current, my gangly buddy, Jim, sprinted through the water, hurled his long legs over the bow, and started up the engines.

Alas, not only did the craft crash into the rocks, sideways, but Jim’s towed ski-boat followed suit. I felt horrible for him—poor guy had paid for the trip.

Such was the beginning of my family’s summer adventures. Thankfully, things got better. Several memories represent the best of our blessed Johansen vacations.

In my mind’s eye, I see six year-old Sarah’s damp ponytail resting atop the shoulders of her “pink and ‘pup-uhl [purple], pwincess’” life vest… her dimples shining prominently as she bobs up and down in a Holiday Inn pool.

A week of camping in Idaho’s rugged high country, the final night of which was spent in a soaked tent, had made arriving in our room wonderful.

I know this because, upon gazing about the premises, nine year-old, waif-like Jonathan gushed, “This is fancy!” I love that the occasional rented room means so much to my youngest boy—especially because his definition of fancy is so simple.

Ironically, Jonathan, twelve year-old Michael and I all slept on the floor of that “swanky” room, so that Jill and the girls could have their own beds. It was a perfect time to teach the boys about putting ladies’ comfort above their own. Thankfully, Michael and I, at least, didn’t have to snooze on the carpet the next time we stayed at a hotel.

Strong Boy and I arrived at Bellevue’s Hyatt to kick off our Passport to Purity, guy’s weekend. He grinned in the darkness as we watched Ant Man on an Eastside IMAX screen. And he glowed with importance when I gave him his special, “welcome to young manhood,” survival knife. He even listened politely to my nervous ramblings about the topic for our stay:

Ye Olde Birds and Bees.

Oh my gosh! While I was relieved when his first comment, after hearing “the talk,” was, and I quote, “Ew,” he had questions. So MANY questions! Almost all were either about the etymology of the word “vagina” (e.g., “Are you sure it’s not a French word?”) or horrified queries regarding the state of dress when mommies and daddies make babies (“Do you have to take off your shirt?!”). I won’t lie to ya, I was relieved when the otherwise fun weekend ended.

Thank the Lord for big sister, Abby, and her lack of such inquiries; her mama handled all of that a couple of years ago. My summer memory of “Abi-girl” is our latest Daddy/Daughter date. It focused solely on her sharing about her upcoming transition to high school.

High school—those two words freak me out. In four short years she’ll go off to college, and I know that these monthly times of fellowship—just she and I—will come to an end.

After our latest outing she paid me the ultimate compliment. As she does in only the most rare of circumstances (moments of deep gratitude), she stood next to my right side and rested her head on my shoulder. It’s such a simple, sweet gesture.

And I cherish it.

A few days ago she entered a new school. On that same morning, little sister Sarah wore a plaid jumper, replete with matching headband, to her first day of kindergarten.

After hugging and kissing “Sare-ee” goodbye, Jill and I quietly walked down the art-filled hallway, and tried not to cry.

Looking back on it now, I am reminded of something:

I’ll take it.

I’ll take all of it… the stressful houseboat rescue, chlorine-scented pool, hard motel floors, awkward questions, and the endless walk away from Sarah’s class, out of the building, and through the fast-appearing doors of life.

Now I can only grieve and grin, for I realize that these precious days will be over—really over—all-too-soon.

Wish I could halt time.