There’s been a lot going through my mind these days. I turned 60 earlier this year, and my thoughts have often turned to my own father … what was he doing when HE was 60? What was it like for me to be with him when he was that age? In what ways is my relationship with my own son (Dylan, age 23) different than the one I enjoyed with my dad?
Though 60 may be “just a number,” turning that age gave me plenty of reasons to look at what I have produced so far during this journey. And how much more time do I have to contribute to my planet? What kind of legacy do I want to create? And what do I want, in the words of Howard LaGarde, from my “4th quarter of life?” After all, isn’t the 4th quarter when one gets to “win the game?”
In pursuit of some of these answers, I decided to step outside of my workaday box and do something I hadn’t done in 30 years while I’ve been in pursuit of a great career, building a beautiful family and contributing to MDI: I would take off for two weeks. Unplug. Leave. Chill out. Only, I would do it in the company of three great friends from New York … and my son, Dylan.
We would use it as an opportunity to raise funds for the Fathering Forum, an organization I helped found that “creates and supports communities of fathers committed to helping children live happy, well-adjusted and successful lives.” We’d go to Peru, where we could eat well, drink like fish, practice my moribund Spanish skills, and challenge ourselves physically. A little bit of City Slickers meets The Hangover.
For my son to spend this kind of time with the rest of us sexagenarians (Isn’t there some irony in the fact that 60-year-olds are considered SEXagenarians?) would be a stretch for him, too. Though I have always thought that he was cool with spending time with my peers in the relative comfort of our home in New York City, being with one another in the inevitably more intimate surroundings of a trip designed to have us live without the boundaries of the day-to-day lifestyle to which we had all become accustomed, would mean for him that he would be exposed to us in ways that he had never experienced before. Long day trips belching and farting together in the back of a pick up truck, late nights dancing with one another with reckless abandon, eating bull’s testicles like it was our last supper … all would expose him to ANOTHER side of his dad he had never seen.
What was going through his mind, I wondered. Was seeing his father “naked” for perhaps the very first time going to make us closer (as I had hoped) or drive him to think: “Who the hell is this guy?”
I’m happy to report that we got to see one another’s wild side, and we are more in love with each other than ever before. There is more trust, understanding and a deeper level of respect than had existed prior than this experience together. The mask was off … and there was no putting it back on.
The centerpiece of the trip was our 4-day hike on the Inca Trail. Though we had plenty of support from guides and porters, I was surprised how physically demanding it was to climb up to 14,000 feet, to deal with the walking up and over what must have been tens of thousands of large stepping-stones over the course of a 27-mile walk in the Andes. I had run marathons before in under 3 hours; this came a close second in the physical toll it took on me.
The other three men dropped out along the way, while Dylan and I carried on.
Over the course of the hike, there were late night talks in dark tents between father and son. At times, during our walks during the day, there was silence, as we took in the beauty together of our surroundings. There was pushing and prodding of one another to take another step up, up, up into the thin air of the mountains. It was heaven and hell; it was perfection.
The final morning of the trek concluded at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu. We had worked hard for this moment. Not merely the four days along the trail, not just the year of getting into shape to enjoy this moment. But the 23 years of Dylan’s young life, and the 60 years of my own had led to that point in time when we could share the view together. We accomplished something in one another’s company that was not just a struggle, but there was also intimacy, mutual respect and personal growth.
We knew that something special had just occurred, and it wasn’t important to label it. But, we will never be the same for having taken this journey together.