"You know this isn't working, don't you?" he said last Saturday, seated beside me in the van.
"What isn't working?"
"This. You and me. We can't do this anymore."
I hated to admit it, but I knew what he meant, and it was almost a relief to hear the words. I'd been trying to figure out a way to express it, myself. Sure, I struggled with sadness, but I sensed no regret on either side. These recent years have been difficult, yet very good for us both.
My son, now a tall young man ready to learn to drive himself or find a friend to take him hiking, no longer wants my sole companionship.
I won't have to quit hiking--thank goodness, because now that he's got me hooked, I like doing 5, 10, or 12-mile treks over trails from the coast range to east of the mountains. Whenever his dad can come along or he can talk his sister into this sort of exercise, we'll enjoy discovering new adventures as a group.
We simply have reached a point where it's stressful for me when my son brings up heading out for a new trail (his love is traversing fresh ground; I could do the same great hike maybe sixty times before losing interest). Last Saturday I was torn between wanting to escape civilization, even though my husband had commitments close to home, and irritation at the details needing attention before we could leave. Plus, this place to which my son was directing (he digests Oregon hiking books and maps) would be reached by driving several miles of gravel road, uphill. It's the price you pay for finding a good spot, but I was maybe a mite cranky as I manned the steering wheel and tried not to fear what lay ahead.
After reaching one trailhead, only to step out of the car during a tremendous mosquito airstrike and realize we hadn't packed any bug spray, we decided to try a shorter hike up Hemlock Butte on the way back to pavement. My son reached the butte top, while I forewent its final hard-scrabble yards and rested my back against a jutting boulder, swatting at a smaller insect squadron patrolling here.
I pondered his words, uttered between trailheads, about our hiking days as a duo being done. For him it meant an acceptance of added responsibility in life. Until he gets his license he will have to seek out other people and not simply rely on old Mom to pursue his passion. This was good.
I liked the idea increasingly after inching the van through a small cut of road where a winter landslide had strewn giant logs and debris across the way home. My son, now barefoot, first checked the puddles ahead for depth, and then I took 'er through, repeating, "Drive, drive, God help!, drive," until I reached firmer ground.
Maybe, I thought, he'll work extra hard and buy his own Jeep for future expeditions. Sounds like a winner to me.