When I was 10, my dad invited me deer hunting. We walked into the woods, climbed his tree stand and settled in. I snuggled up right next to him. Dad sighted the rifle. He even let me put my finger on the trigger. One-on-one time with my dad was rare. I drank it up. We were hunting together; just the two of us, taking in the quiet woods. It was magical.
No deer passed us that day. Had one come our way, I have no doubt that Dad would have shot it. He was a hunter. He wanted a trophy deer. Eventually Dad got his prized buck, had it mounted and displayed it proudly.
Some years later, a visitor, gazing at the trophy deer, asked him if he did a lot of hunting. Yes, I heard Dad say, he hunted, but it was different now. Mostly, he liked being out in the woods.
Twenty-five years later, Dad, dying of cancer, tells me a story. He was out deer hunting on a cold day, he says, the kind of still, quiet day with no wind, the kind of day when breath becomes visible. He was up in his tree stand, out in the woods. It started to snow, softly falling flakes. And a big buck -- a beauty -- came over the hill, slowly. It stood there for a long time. My dad had a perfect line. His finger was on the trigger. It was a clear shot.
Dad leans in close to me now.