Stage 16: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios
Official: 26.13 km // iPhone Step Count: 25.6 km
**I have been wrestling with the following reflection for several days. Like the “I am an Asshole” reflection, this one is personal and honest. While I am publishing it publicly, I do not want nor expect some banal platitudes in response. The purpose of this reflection, is simply an honest reflection of the thoughts conjured as I walk through the silence.**
I miss my dad.
But the truth is, I’ve missed him all my life.
I never expected to think much about my dad after his death. To be entirely honest, I felt a great relief when he finally died. He spent much of his life sick and in pain. The few months he wasn’t juggling doctors’ appointments, he spent his time sleeping.
The last time I walked the Camino, my father was alive. It was yet another summer adventure of mine that occurred over Father’s Day. While I never planned it, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved to know I’d be missing another “Hallmark Holiday.” Subsequently, that would be the last Father’s Day that my dad would still be alive.
It was no secret, my father and I were never close. With poor health and a heart attack that occurred early in my childhood, my father rarely had time for me. He was always in-and-out of the hospital. While he said he would play catch with me, build me a tree house, or do typical father-son activities, it was always planned after a nap. A nap that he never seemed to wake up from. For this fact, I always resented him. I suspect my continued resentment of sports and certain activities is rooted in the fact that it was always denied to me by my father.
On the days he was out of the hospital, he rarely followed the doctors’ orders of healthy eating and exercise, thus further hurting his chances for any recovery.
Much of our time together was spent in silence or arguing. He always said he was “dealt a bad hand in life,” and I argued he simply needed to “reshuffle the deck.” Our worldviews rarely aligned.
Regardless of our differences, a boy always longs for his father’s approval. After events, plays, presentations, and various functions my grandparents, various teachers, and strangers would approach me with words of affirmation and approval. My father, if present, would often just maintain his usual scowl.
For all of my life I have tried to shake that weight but it does not seem to fade. While I’ve had tremendous male mentors in my life—my grandfather, countless teachers, advisors, and mentors—that simple blood bond was never transferred.
My father did have wonderful qualities and was deeply supportive of various individuals and communities. He was the first person to take me with his friends from the church’s men’s club to volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul on a day that I was off from school and furthermore didn’t have a need for service hours. A fact that has not been lost on me, as my volunteer rap sheet now stretches for miles. At those events and with those people, my dad would be personable and light-hearted. But at home, he was sullen.
Ultimately, he was a good man, just not a good father. I too am a good man, yet I shutter at any desire to have kids so as not to repeat the sins of the past.
I never imagined I’d think much about my father after his death. To be frank, I had allowed that man to die years prior to January 2017. Yet, as I find myself walking through the silent, absent, wilderness his memory fades into existence.
There is a great mystery to this wilderness. Alone, with only a dot of a person fading into the distance, you feel both isolated and surrounded.
For years, most of my time with my dad was spent with him as my chauffeur. The silence of his words were hushed by the rushing wind pouring through the open windows. Now as that same wind rushes over the wheat fields of northern Spain, I cannot help but to recall the decade-long gap that has transpired since those daily rides.
In the movie The Way, Martin Sheen’s character is carrying the ashes of his son who died on the Camino. While I am not carrying any deceased ashes, I do feel like the weight of my father’s silence is being carried with me on that wind.
As the cool wind shivers my spine, I recoil hoping the wind, like I so often did with my dad, will go away. Yet, the wind continues to blow.
Along the Camino, it is common for father-and-son duos of various ages to walk in pairs. A variable right-of-passage for the two men. As I watch these men interact and engage one another, I long for that same level of affection and shared acceptance. A boy’s admiration for his father is often palpable, I’ve seen it on the Camino and during my time at St. X, and it is something I desperately support and longingly desire.
But my father is dead, and any hope of capturing what was lost is as impossible as grasping the silent wind. Situated at nearly the halfway point of the Camino, so much has already been left along the roadside and so much more will soon be discovered.
The wind blows, the silence continues, memories fade, and hope for what could have been transforms into new life.