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There's a difference between putting things off and procrastinating. If you put something off because you don't want to do it, that's procrastination, and it comes with a penalty. For example, if I put off mowing the lawn until next week, the grass will be much taller, more challenging to cut, thus taking more time to complete the job, and it leaves those unsightly waves of cut grass through the yard.
You might put off a project because you're not sure how to do it. Putting off a leaky pipe or a running toilet repair because you're not sure how to do it will weigh heavy on your water bill. The high cost of wasted water can reach hundreds of dollars - not to mention the possibility of causing water damage.
Still, procrastinating is human nature. Okay, not all humans do it, but I do, so I should say it's my nature.
On the other hand, we sometimes put things off that we want to do. Things we even dream about doing, but we just didn't have the time, or in my case, didn't make time; time to live that dream or know the experience. Putting important things or events off comes with an even higher cost than procrastination – regret. Such regret is portrayed perfectly in Harry Chapin's song, Cat's in the Cradle.
The song is about a little boy who was growing up – fast, but his dad had so much to do. It wasn't until later in life when the dad noticed, "…he learned to walk while I was away, and he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew, he'd say 'I'm gonna be like you, dad. You know I'm gonna be like you.'" Those are some bittersweet lyrics. I think every man would like his child to grow up to be like him – at least acquiring his better qualities, but at what price?
I was very blessed to have made many good memories with my dad before he passed away, but bringing one dream to fruition eluded me. I always wanted to take my dad to Colorado.
I wanted to go hiking, and camping, and fishing with Dad in the Rocky Mountains. I wanted to show him the magical things and places I'd found. To share the peace and tranquility, I'd come to know in the forest and alongside a mountain stream. To gaze in wonder at how much brighter the stars are at ten thousand feet.
I wanted Dad to feel the joy of holding his open hands on both sides of his mouth, like a megaphone and hollering from a quiet mountain pass over a canyon below. We would send a ripple through the silence and hear our voices carrying on like a stone skipping over smooth waters. "Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello…" and, "Can you hear me? Can you hear me, hear me, hear me…
As the stone takes shorter hops, eventually sinking into the lake, our words would softly fade away, gently settling into the treetops of the forest.
Dad goes to the mountains with me often, and we do all these things – in my heart. Unfortunately, we never made the time to go while he was still living, and that's a heavy regret that can never be made right.
Not long ago, I got a message from Tim Werner, a man I'd met through a social media site. He asked if I would be willing to read a short story he wrote about a 3-generation backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park. He went on this adventure with his 74-year-old father and 17-year-old son. "Sure," I replied, "Send it to me, brother."
Tim questioned, "Can I send it here, or would it be better via email? It's a decent size pdf file." I gave him my email address.
When his email showed up, I opened the file expecting to give it a quick read. "Human Nature, by Tim Werner. Page one of 128? Decent size pdf file?" The first thing that came to mind was, "I don't have time to read a book." I had several trips coming up and projects that couldn't wait and…
And then I thought about it. People take time to read my stories, and this one was about a hiking adventure through nature - with his dad. It started sounding similar to a trip I once didn't have time for – or should I say, I didn't make time.
It would do me some good to relax with a book in front of the fireplace. Maybe vicariously, through Tim's story, I would see what I missed out on with my dad. I replied, "I will read it, but it may take a couple of days before I can get to it." It took me nearly two weeks to get to it, but I didn't want to stop once I started reading.
Tim wrote about the hike they selected. "The Feldtmann Lake Loop? On Isle Royale? This guy is taking his 74-year-old dad on that trail?" I'd never hiked it, but it was a long trek with some pretty strenuous sections as I recalled reading about that loop. "Surely they went a different way." Not far into his book, Tim writes that the park rangers looked at him with the same skepticism. Now I had to keep reading.
The three rode on the Voyager II – the same boat we took to Isle Royale. The names of way-points and places he mentioned on the island were familiar – as were the aches and pains he described along the way and at each day's end.
I liked that his dad had never met a stranger – not even in the woods, on an island, in the world's largest freshwater lake. (sounds familiar) I could see the faces and knew the personalities as Tim described people they'd met, especially "Pat." I've met a Pat or two in my time, and I'll bet you have too! The book had me in suspense, brought back memories, and caused me to ponder, "what if."
Tim's timing in writing the book reminded me of Dan Fogelberg and his song Leader of the Band, which he wrote for and about his father. Dan expressed what the song meant to his dad, who was still living. His father was able to share and enjoy the song's success, and in turn, what that meant to Dan. It was simply beautiful. I felt that same sensation for Tim.
Tim wrote the book as a surprise, a gift. He wanted his now 82-year-old father to be able to read it. We never know what tomorrow will bring, and time waits for no one. Tim accomplished his goal.
His dad was thrilled and boasted of his son's accomplishment. I could feel Tim's gratitude toward his dad and son for going on this journey, making a long-time dream of his come true. Tim's deep satisfaction with himself was evident for writing and publishing the novella in time to share yet another joy with his father.
We chatted several times. I asked if he was an author; if he had written other books. I loved his answer, "I'm just a guy living in northern Minnesota." Me too, brother.
Tim mailed a hard copy of his book to me. Without procrastination, I read it again - this time with my dad. I imagined our trip to Colorado would have been much like Werner's adventure, having similar challenges and satisfactions. I'm not one to give away an ending, but the last six words of Tim's book perfectly described the way such a journey would have gone for my dad and me: "We didn't want it to end."
With Tim's permission, I've tagged him in this story. If you'd like to find out more about his book, Human Nature, you may contact him.