Lynn Burkhead — For the outdoors enthusiast, the best gift is time
Glancing at the calendar, the next few days are very much a Hallmark card kind of weekend for yours truly.
For starters, today marks the 28th wedding anniversary for me and my wife Charissa, the beautiful woman I somehow convinced to marry me nearly three decades ago.
A longtime fishing and hunting widow accustomed to cold dinners brought on by ducks that wouldn’t quit flying, big bucks on the evening prowl, or the prospect of a 10-pound bass lurking in the shadows, my wife is a beautiful woman who loves the Lord, her family, and me with a great passion.
Put simply, yes, I severely outkicked my punt coverage — happy anniversary honey!
But this weekend is also the weekend of Father’s Day, a mid-June holiday that has changed for me in recent years. And in all honesty, they are changes that I’m not especially fond of.
First, I haven’t needed to buy a Father’s Day card for my dad Bill since he passed away in May 2017. There’s still my father-in-law Pat, a great man who would give you the shirt off his back. But few things are any sadder in life than to see a display of Father’s Day cards at a local store…and to have no dad to buy one for.
Father’s Day has also changed for me as well since my wife and I are empty nesters these days.
My daughter Katie is married to Tim, who is working his way towards a law degree. They live in Waco where they are busy, young and in love, and “dog parents” to a beautiful golden retriever puppy who might have a future as a duck dog.
My middle child Zach still lives locally, but he’s a busy young adult flying his way towards an aviation career thanks to his airborne education at Southeastern. Even though he is a passionate outdoorsman who loves to hunt and fish as often as possible, his busy life and work schedule keeps our time together, outdoors at least, limited at best.
And then there’s the youngest child Will, an equally passionate young hunter and angler who loves the outdoors so much that he’s pursuing a career as a wildlife biologist. Engaged to be married next spring and getting ready to graduate this fall from Stephen F. Austin, he’s busy interning for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this summer.
Considering all the above, Father’s Day has certainly changed for me since I can’t spend it with my own late father, nor with my 20-something year old kids as they continue pushing forward with their own lives and careers.
But that doesn’t mean that I’ll be empty handed this Sunday, since in many ways, I’ve already received my Father’s Day gifts. I got them this week as I went through some old photo files on my computer, reliving events that brought many smiles to my face and maybe a tear or two as well.
To start with, there are photos of me and my dad on fishing trips we made down through the years. From my early days into my teenage years, dad and I found ourselves on water bodies that held bass, bluegills, and more. Neither of us ever caught that elusive 10-pounder on such trips — although my dad did come close on a 1990s trip to Lake Fork with late guide Steve Klas — but that never really mattered.
There were a lot of heart-to-heart conversations about life and eternity, not to mention a few inside jokes, a lot of laughs and smiles, and more than a few fish caught. I haven’t actually heard my dad say anything in a few years now, but every time I look at one of these photos, I can still hear the whisper of his voice.
There are also numerous photos of me and my kids in the outdoors. There’s Katie at a few “Kid’s Fishing” events, hoisting up a fish with a big smile. There were a few duck hunts as well, particularly in the era of my late Labrador retriever Maggie. There was even a blistering dove hunt or two, with my sweet young daughter sweating profusely on a September afternoon as we patiently waited for the whistle of wings over a dwindling waterhole.
For both boys, the photos are plentiful. Cold duck hunts, mild deer hunts, summertime days on Texoma or another local water body as we chased bass, stripers, crappie and anything else that would bite. There are photos with first bucks, first mallards, first Rio Grande turkeys, and memorable fish that might not win a tournament, but brought a million buck’s worth of smiles.
And all of that makes me aware that for this particular Father’s Day weekend, no gift or Hallmark card in the mailbox is necessary.
Why? Because I’ve already gotten my gift, one called time spent with those that I will love to my dying day.
The outdoors is a powerful place, the laboratory of a grand Creator who never ceases to amaze me with the infinite variety and striking beauty that can only be found outside.
And with a lifetime of memories made in that laboratory with my own father and my children, what more could this middle-aged outdoor writer ask for?
Maybe a little more time with my kids — and maybe a few grandkids someday — through the years ahead, if that’s possible. But if not, I’m a richly blessed man, one who is thankful for plenty of powerful memories — Happy Father’s Day to me.
Here’s hoping that this weekend, you’ve still got a dad to spend Father’s Day with, or some children who love to spend time outdoors with you.
And if not, I hope you have your own pile of treasured memories of time spent outdoors with those that you love.
Because if you do, then you’re a blessed man indeed.