He was up early getting ready to pick up his son to go deer hunting. He had brushed his teeth and was washing his face. He paused to look at himself in the mirror and saw an old man staring back at him.
Maybe it was because his 74th birthday was on Christmas, and it would be here in a few more weeks. He stared at the old man in the mirror and saw wrinkles carved by frowns and smiles through the years of his life. He looked at the bags under his eyes. He saw his skin sagging down on both sides of his chin and looked like a turkey wattle hanging below. What little hair he saw was gray. The old man in the mirror was in the winter of his life.
He pulled into his son’s driveway and smiled as he loaded his deer hunting stuff in the truck. He was proud of the husband, and father, his son had become. He moved over to let him drive. His old eyes didn’t see as well in the dark anymore. The interior light of the truck revealed specks of gray in his son’s hair. It was hard for him to believe that it wouldn’t be long until his son would be a grandpa for the first time. He was in the fall of his life.
Not much was said as the truck traveled down the road to their hunting place. The son glanced over at his dad. He realized that his dad was getting older. He wondered how many more deer and turkey hunting trips they would have together. Dad was still very active, and his health seemed good. But, at his age you never know.
As he drove his mind wandered to times when he was younger and dad took him rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting and dove hunting. He thought of frog gigging trips, fishing trips and especially sucker grabbin’. Camping and trout fishing were fun too.
He thought to himself how he needed to thank him for the time they had spent together in the outdoors and all the outdoor things he had done with his son and daughter when they were in the spring of their lives. This would be a good time to tell him how important all that was to him and them. They drove on in silence.
The truck came to a stop and the old man got out to open the gate. The dark night sky was getting lighter. They had to hurry to get to their stands before the deer started moving. They wished each other good luck and started off in opposite directions. The son stopped, turned around and watched his dad walking away until he was gone into the dark.
The old man got to his stand and started the climb up. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be. He settled into his stand, got everything ready and sat in silence waiting. He thought about the old man in the mirror that morning and wondered how many more times he would be able to do this thing he loved so much. Right now he still had the strength, the will and the desire but he knew at his age that could change at any time. He didn’t want to think about that anymore.
The dark turned to light, and the wildlife started their day. Birds sang their songs, and crows talked to each other and squirrels sounded like deer as they rustled about in the woods. He watched deer traveling through the frosted field below but out of range.
As the morning wore on, his thoughts turned to all the memories he had from being outdoors with his kids, grandkids and friends in the summer and fall of his life. He even thought of a time when he was fishing and would look over to watch his wife reading a book. He wished there had been more time spent in the outdoors with his son and grandsons that lived in another state. Where had the time gone? It went so fast. He looked up to the sky and said thank you for blessing him and forgiving him.
In another stand, in another place, his son sat waiting. He too had seen and heard the wildlife. He too had seen deer out of range and even a few that he let have a heartbeat for another day. He too thought about outdoor memories with dad, his wife and his kids as well as the memories he would make with his grandkids someday. The outdoor traditions he loves would be passed on. He too looked up and said thank you. He even thought about how he was in the fall of his life, and winter was coming.
There were no deer to field dress and load that day. They talked some on the way home but it was mostly a silent trip again. The old man was thinking to himself how he wished his dad would have spent time with him in the outdoors, but he didn’t. He thought about how he never heard his dad tell him that he loved him. He had no good memories from the spring of his life.
This would have been a perfect time to talk to each other about all the things they had been thinking about. Why is it so hard for men to look at each other in the eye and tell them how they feel? A day will come when they will wish they had.
They pull into the driveway. Hunting gear is unloaded. The old man says, “I love you, Bub!” The son says, “I love you too,” then watches until his dad has driven out of sight. He goes into the house, kisses his wife and goes into the bathroom to wash his hands. He looks in the mirror and sees the gray in his hair. His thoughts from the day sweep over him. He thinks of his dad being in the winter of his life. “I will be right back,” he tells his wife. “I need to go tell Dad something.”