Just this past weekend, my 15-year-old son and I spent a night and day searching for a little white box in the woods during an ongoing downpour.
I can think of about a million more things that might have been more comfortable — even at moments more enjoyable — than getting soaking wet, but, as members of the Civil Air Patrol, we were training for search-and-rescue missions in the wild woods of Tennessee.
I joined the Civil Air Patrol, TN-008 squadron, officially in March, yet I’d been attending meetings with Jack since the previous November.
Jack has a great interest in learning to fly, and the aviation and aerospace component of the Civil Air Patrol (he’s been up twice flying planes and gliders in the past year) seemed a great opportunity at an even more affordable price.
So I started driving him to and from the meetings — often in our farm truck, where some of the best conversations we’ve had in years have taken place.
But rather than just enjoy the car rides, I joined CAP, standing next to my son, rather than watching from afar something that has brought him great joy.
I’m not your typical member despite several years of emergency management experience in what now feels like another life. I’m learning the routines, studying for grade promotions and soon will promote from Senior Member Schwarzen to 2nd Lt. Schwarzen! I still haven’t bought a uniform, but should sooner than later.
But none of that really matters. What’s more important is being a part of what Jack is doing: together, holding each other accountable for the studying we must do; attending meetings each week, even looking for little white boxes in the pouring the rain.
I’m no stranger to children growing older. I’ve two in college, another one taking college courses as a senior in high school, and now CAP Staff Sgt. Jack Schwarzen, who is a sophomore homeschooler this year. I get that the time you have with each one is severely limited and as they get older, spending time with them becomes even more difficult.
I don’t want to wake up one day and be like so many dads who wish they had spent more time with their children. You will never get that time back.
Instead, it’s well worth the inconvenience and awkwardness that CAP can be to me. In short, Jack is worth it, and it’s sure to be a time neither of us will ever forget.