“I’m bored,” Natalie said. It had rained all day and, after playing video games, watching TV, and surfing kiddie You Tube, digital ennui had finally set in. 

“Being bored is part of life,” I said. 

“What does that, like, even mean?”

“Go outside and play with some sticks. Find ways to entertain yourself.” 

“I’m not playing with sticks.” 

During the lazy, hazy days of summer, some parents think they’re a failure if they don’t pack their child’s day with enriching activities, trips, sports, or other such distractions. I, however, never saw “cruise director” listed in my fatherly job description. “Benign neglect,” a friend of mine once said, “Is an essential part of raising a child.” That statement might upset some people, but it’s very true. When I was a kid during the summer, my parents took me on vacations, to museums, amusement parks, and baseball games but, most of the time, they just threw me out of the house and didn’t expect to see me until I was hungry, or the streetlights came on. Was I bored much of the time? Absolutely, but I learned how to create my own fun. These days, however, if I left my child to roam unattended through the neighborhood, I’d have child protective services on my ass. 

“Can you do something with Nat?” my wife asked me a while later. “I’m trying to clean the basement and she’s driving me nuts.” 

“Okay, honey,” I said. Of course, I wasn’t thinking about my child’s welfare. I just didn’t want to get roped into excavating all the crap that had accumulated in my basement. 

“Let’s go to the park,” I told Natalie. 

“It rained,” she said, “No one will be there.” 

“Let’s just see.” 

Of course, the park was washed out and bereft of kiddies, but the pickleball players cramming the slick courts didn’t seem to give a damn. I hoped they weren’t thinking about suing the town if the slipped and fell. Sighing, I said, “Sorry Nat. The playground’s a bust.” 

“What are we going to do now?” she whined. Then I was hit by inspiration. 

“Natalie, can you see the mountain from here?” 

“What mountain?” 

“It’s right over there,” I said, pointing. 

“I don’t see it.” 

“I’ll show you.” 

I live in near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Strictly speaking, there are no mountains in my town, just some really high hills. Due to the undulating typography of the area, however, you’re often not aware they’re even there, but I knew where one was hidden. Driving a scant quarter mile from the playground, I turned into a side street, shifted into a lower gear, and guided my car up a steep climb. 

“Whoa,” Natalie, said, reacting as the car tilted upwards 

“This is nothing,” I said. “Wait until we get to the top.” As my back pressed into my seat, I listened as the car’s engine strained with effort while my brow furrowed in concentration. The road we were on was notoriously difficult. Narrowing to one lane, with a steep drop off hemmed in by guardrails, if a car came from the opposite direction, you could have a problem. When fire and garbage trucks climb this hill, they have to go into reverse to go back down. One time, a DPW truck tumbled over the edge. 

“Wow,” Natalie, said. “Look at those houses!” Quite a few wealthy people have built showpieces on this hill with commanding views of the valley below and a famous politician lived up here for a time but, if you didn’t know where to look, you’d never know they were there. Eventually we got to the top of the hill and were rewarded with a spectacular view. 

“Look at the lake down there,” my daughter said. “It’s like were in an airplane!” 

“On a good day,” I said. “You can see New York from here.” 

The sun was starting to set and, as its rays sliced through the dark swollen clouds, a mighty rainbow arched over the tree covered slopes.  Sighing, I pulled my car into the narrow roundabout at the top of hill and parked. “Is that something?” I said, pointing. 

High above the modern world’s tumult, the hilltop was eerily quiet and, as I looked on the vista below, I was reminded of how, on another mountaintop, God gave Moses a glimpse of a promised land he’d never live to see. Looking at Natalie, I thought about how’d she’d grown in past couple of months, evincing the beginnings of the woman she’ll eventually become. Then a thought struck me. Would I live to see it? See her graduate college, fall in love, get married and have children? After cancer, I harbor fewer illusions about my mortality than I used to but there, on the summit, I realized children are also a promised land of sorts. Usually outliving us moms and dads, kids are an echo of their parents revertebrating into a future we’ll never see. Then I thought about my dad on his deathbed and how I got the sense that he was disappointed. He lived to see his children grow up and delighted in his grandchildren, but I’m sure he was hoping for more time to see how things turned out. How many oldsters hang on to life until they see a grandchild born, graduate high school or get married? The need to see those things for ourselves is powerful and the thought of not being around to witness them can be distressing. But as I get older, I’ve come to understand I’ve got to get used to the fact I’m slowing down while younger people are speeding up and leaving me behind. I could accept that fact with either good grace or bitterness but, if you’re like me, I’m suspect it’s a combination of the two – but all of us want to see that promised land. 

Moses didn’t, but I wonder if he took solace in something the philosopher Alan Watts would elucidate millennia later – that there’s no such thing as the past or future, only an eternal now.  When you think about it, a memory is something we relive now, just like dreaming about flying cars and warp speed can only occur in the present.  We can only gaze upon the past and future in the here and now. Some of us will get to see our kids grow up and some of us won’t. Sometimes they don’t even get to grow up.  None of us really knows what’s going to happen and that causes me anxiety from time to time but, as I looked at my daughter staring open mouthed at the rainbow, I suddenly remembered another snippet from Scripture, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is already in your midst.” It is here now

Ruminating over past wrongs or filled with worry about the days ahead, we often overlook the now, walking right past beauty’s endless gifts: a child’s wondrous face, a rainbow vaulting heavenward, or the love people offer us. But that’s okay, for those moments will always come again, and again, and again. For, in the eternal now, The Promised Land is yesterday, today, and forever. We only to need eyes to see and, as I looked at my child, I savored that moment which, in a way I cannot describe, contained everything I knew I’d ever need.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” my daughter. said, shifting nervously in her seat. I smiled because my dad used to look at me the same way and now, I knew why. He may be gone but, when I think of him, he is here with me now – again, and again, and again. Right now.

“One day, Natalie” I said. “You will understand.” 

‘Can we get ice cream?” 

“Sure, kid.” 

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