So much had happened since my Brother-n-law passed away in August, my in-laws had some major health issues and my mother had a fall at home. As we came into the New Year it was very clear to us both that we were running out of steam, Shannon was/is still struggling with processing her grief, and I was feeling stretched, overwhelmed, sad, lost and just frankly confused. I wasn’t sick, physically hurt or grappling the same pain as everyone else but many days I sat at work on the verge of tears. How do I help my wife, my in-laws, my parents, my children and leave enough left to help myself?
Currently, with regards to health, everyone has stabilized and is on the road to recovery. Like I mentioned in my original post, the grief is like the ocean, some days the water is calm, sometimes there is an unexpected storm slamming the beach. You’re just never sure what they weather will be. You can’t cancel life because of inclement weather. Shannon came up with a wild idea that we should invest some time in and focus on
something that we enjoy, put some energy into something else, start spending time doing things we enjoy. Somewhere along the way she came up with the idea that we should hit the road this year and travel to all the Missouri state parks. There is 56 of them!!! Let that sink in. Shannon has spent hours and hours mapping out our calendar of trips to the parks. Some we will drive to for day trips, other we will camp. Many trips will just be the four of us, but others will have guests. We bought a travel trailer, that’s fancy talk for a camper that you tow behind your vehicle…this is the moment when most people start to think we are crazy since neither of us knows anything about towing ANYTHING.
For me, this is about defining who we are as a family, resetting our focus and living a life with a bit of adventure. As a family, we were spread thin and stretched between all the burning fires. Our youngest child, Birdie, came into the world the day my father-n-law had a stroke, and we had all finally got back to somewhat of a “post-crisis” life when all hell broke loose again. For Shannon, I think it is more simply about her brother, while I don’t recall him being a big camper or even really being into the state parks but that’s not the point, He was really into the outdoors and loved nothing more than hanging around a fire pit with friends. He had recently started to travel and experience the world outside of his hometown, travel was new for him, and he was excited about it. Traveling does something to people; it’s like magic. It changes your perspective and shows you endless possibilities. For him, I think it was freeing. I believe Shannon sees this as a way to connect with him, a way to experience some of the activities that he loved but more importantly a way to continue his journey.
We have been to fourteen parks as of Sunday. My original plan for this blog was to tell the story of each of our park visits. Clearly, I am a little behind! Here is a brief recap of our adventures so far.
Edward “Ted and Pat Jones – Confluence Point State Park – It is only by chance
that we started at the park where Lewis and Clark set out on their epic adventure. I don’t recall from history class what it was like for Lewis and Clark when the started out, but I should, you can’t be from Missouri and not hear about Lewis and Clark at ever turn. For us, I don’t know if I have the words to explain the feeling of that day. We were naturally excited to get started.
Don Robinson State Park & Robertsville State Park – A quick day trip is better than anything else we would have had planned. You simply can’t beat a sunny day and a picnic lunch looking over a Missouri bluff
Big Lake State Park, Knob Noster State Park, Wallace State Park, Weston Bend State Park, Watkins Mill State Park, Lewis and Park State Park, and Rock Island Trail State Park – We were busy, seven parks in three days. It’s a lot. The girls and I explored Kansas City while Shannon worked during the week and when the weekend came we visited the parks in the KC region. When you go to so many parks in one weekend, you realize a few things. First off, not all parks are amazing; some are worth hours or even days of exploring and others are worth a drive through and a bathroom break. Secondly, seeing the excitement on your wife’s face when finding the elusive Rock Island Trail in the small town of Windsor, MO is priceless. We had almost given up trying to find the newish offshoot of the Katy Trail, but after choking down some Sonic Drive-In, we took the advice of a man on a horse and finally found the trail. Shannon’s excitement is what this adventure is all about.
This is who we are and what we love to do, this is us at our best. Shannon and I have always wanted to raise our children to be dreamers and wanders, kids that love being outside as much as the love a smartphone and camping has always been our happy place. Combine that with the state of Missouri celebrating 100 years of state parks this year, and we have a recipe for adventure calling our name. My yard at home has gotten a little less attention than it normally would in the Spring, and our Summer is already pretty booked with park visits, but in exchange for that we have already experienced so much. We have laughed and cried. We have found ourselves lost on back roads and wandering through the forest. We are making memories, processing grief and learning more about each other. This journey may not solve everything, but the therapy we get from a hike in the woods, from the smell of a campfire, or from hitting the road is all we need right now.