Last Saturday, Katie attended the graduation for the high sc3hool at which she works. I woke up with my son around 7 am, puttering at home, and then riding our bikes around the neighborhood. We then went to an event at the World’s Fair Park in Knoxville—a festival of books. We played in the splash pad, bought a snowcone, listened to an author share how she develops characters for her books (“Can you all name one thing you are scared of?” “Bears!”), and stopped at several of the tents sponsored by local groups.
We met up with Katie after and drove to Wal-Mart. On the way there, our son fell asleep, and we bought inner tubes to take to the Little River in Townsend, around 45 minutes from home. The little guy awoke at a grocery store in Townsend–we grabbed some snacks, listened to bagpipes being played at a nearby Scottish Festival, and headed up the road a short ways to the river. Changing in the car next to a Jeep Festival (what a day!), we then plopped the tubes in the water, looking cautiously at slightly faster moving water and larger rapids than we anticipated. We pushed off.
The first rapids were exciting, not too scary. The next were about the same, but we got stuck in some shallow water. Katie pushed us off rocks; I jumped off; we laughed. We continued onward, reaching a shallow part of the river. There was no tubing—at least along the side of the river we took. I jumped out, but lost Katie and the little as they continued downstream, us all laughing. See you later! I grabbed an abandoned tube from one of the companies that rents them; it was larger and it kept me higher out of the water, letting me catch back. We reunited and tied the tubes together, moving along to a deeper part of the river. We reached some cliffs, watching older kids and their Dad jump off, while the kids’ Mom egged them all on.
Where were we? The river became quieter as tubers we had seen earlier spread out. We splashed each other; the little guy started to become bored. “We’re almost there!” (We weren’t). At last, we saw the swinging bridge at which we had planned to take out the tubes. We did, and Katie and our little walked a short ways to a train museum while I jogged back to the car. We met up again, but to my dismay the tubes were gone! I had a funny feeling, though, and walked across the bridge and looked upstream, seeing what appeared to be one of our tubes and a tuber slowly headed downstream. When we met, they were so embarrassed and apologetic; we said it was fine, frustrated but also slightly delighted by their mischievousness.
It started getting dark, so we looked up places to eat; Townsend is small, and there were few options. We found a place that was a Pancake House in the morning, Mexican at night. We ordered tacos that came out wrong (they thought we wanted to Gringo version; we did not). Our little mostly ate chips and french fries, some guacamole thrown in. After, we ran around as the sun set, driving back in the glow of the sunset across Chilhowee Mountain.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about this day and parenting, care, grieving and others’ loss. A quotation from a Dad who lost a child has echoed through my thoughts: “I always feared losing a child.” It is a horrific thing to even think, one that tears one apart knowing what happened. I love my child and family and am thankful for all that I have.