Today was a good day. It could have been terrible or sad or both. Today is a day people think of fallen veterans and departed family and visit grave sides. We went hiking instead.
We visited the Badlands. It was a place we’ve loved to take the kids for years but oddly enough last year we never made it out there. I think that helped it be a good choice for today. There were no fresh memories with Dad here. Lucy didn’t even really remember this place. To her it was a vague memory enhanced by a visit to a photo album.
Today I tried to do things differently. We didn’t stay long at the visitor’s center. We chose different places to picnic and hike at the start of the day. I passed up places we “always” went. Today was a day for new adventures with a touch of the familiar.
We were treated with several firsts today—a gift from God perhaps to help today be a new experience?
We fed prairie dogs right out the window of the van! That’s never happened before. The kids crammed out the windows to toss grapes and lettuce and at least pretend we were trying to feed them things the game wardens would approve of. I kept glancing on the horizon for any official vehicles arriving to make us stop while the giggles and requests for the camera kept coming. One little prairie dog even sang for his supper. Either that or he was yelling, “Hey! I want a piece of that action!”
We saw mountain goats on the ridges as we came to stopped traffic around a bend. We don’t remember ever seeing them this close before. Kati even saw a mom with a baby.
As we arrived in the last portion of the park to get out and hike, we were greeted with the most breathtakingly beautiful views I think we’ve ever gotten here. It was certainly the most green and lush we’ve ever seen the Badlands. A winter with record snowfall and wet days in the past weeks have been rewarded with bursting green growth and astounding contrast in the hills of yellows and reds bursting forth where normally a sea of tans awaits. It was phenomenal.
I watched as my own little mountain goats romped and climbed higher and higher until I had to shout out for them to return. A storm was moving in on the horizon and I wasn’t sure I wanted them perched precariously on a precipice with thunder rolling softly in the distance.
Today was a good day.
At dinner I decided I should tell them how some people who’ve lost a loved one celebrate today. They agreed this was better. Dad would have liked this better. Still grief snuck up on one of my children at bedtime. Ryan, because of his autism, keeps looping back to the night his father died and wrestling with his shock, anger, hurt, and so on. Today reminded him of Dad’s absence. But at least it didn’t hit him until the quiet of bedtime.
On another day I will ask one more time if they want to help me scatter Kraig’s ashes or just want me to take care of it. It’s time. It’s past time. On another day we will go pick out rocks to have engraved as monuments for Dad to keep in our garden. I’ve decided this is a more personal tribute than a cold cemetery they will never want to visit. Those things can wait for another day.
Today we laughed. We hiked. We climbed until Mom either couldn’t keep up or demanded for safety-sake they come back to earth. We fed prairie dogs and played “what do you see in that cloud” on a long drive.
Today was a good day.