Graduation Gifts

By Beacon Staff

The start of summer is graduation season. I’ve got a pair of grads who marched across the stage at Glacier High School. They’re twins, and they’re all I’ve got. As we used to joke, they were our first and last.

Families with twins understand how the pair passes through life’s milestones together. The first day of kindergarten. The first soccer practice (I was the coach for that one). The first day of high school. I got a lucky break there. For the twins’ first two years I had a job at Glacier High.

Some folks wonder how that goes, thinking that a parent on the premises must cramp a teen’s style. It turns out that’s a misconception. As most educators who’ve worked where their children learned can tell you, the kids quickly adapt, taking advantage of the ready source of lunch money, last-minute signatures and runs home to retrieve homework assignments that didn’t make it into the backpack in the morning rush.

And as far as that teenage style goes, Glacier’s a big place. There was plenty of room for the twins to get into trouble while avoiding the watchful eye of their dad. The good news is that didn’t happen too often.

For the last 18 years it has been easy to think of my daughters as two individuals who nonetheless function as a single unit. Almost every activity up to this point has included both. But that’s all changing now as they move on from high school. They may spend another year or two attending college together, but our future will be more like it has been in the last frantic weeks before graduation, when I returned to Kalispell after a winter away working, and I tried to cram in as much fun time as I could with the twins before they ran off on a post graduation vacation.

The twins both work, but at different jobs with different schedules. It was easy for one to get away. For the other, not so much. So before graduation I did something I’d almost never done before. I went fishing with one of my daughters while the other stayed behind to attend to her responsibilities.

The three of us have spent a lot of time outdoors, most of it coming in short bursts of an hour or two in the afternoons after school. A lot of that also came in the years before we moved to Kalispell. The twins were 3 when we moved to Flagstaff, Ariz., and 9 when we left, so those years are rich in memories of the three of us walking together in some of the amazing landscapes near that town on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau.

Almost every day after school we walked along the rim of the mesa in the middle of Flagstaff near our home. Usually, I would idly wander through the mesa forest, happy to let the twins play noisy games of tag, darting about in the thickets of Gambel oak that grew among the ponderosa. That’s how it went until the day we walked up on a mountain lion and cub in the very same spot and I realized those frantic games of tag were exactly the kind of behavior that elicits the predatory instinct in cats.

As the twins got older and we returned to Montana the daily walks came to an end. Teenage girls have better things to do than commune with nature with their old man. But there have been recent developments in the twins’ outdoor activities. After a hiatus of about three years, both have renewed their interest in fishing (that’s their graduation gift to me). One even went fishing without me the other day, but was sure to text photos of the bass and perch she caught while I was at work.

My other daughter joined me on a trip to fish the Thompson River a day or two later. An hour and a half each way, and all I need to say about that trip was that I enjoyed the conversation there and back even more than I did the fishing.

It’s all been good, bugs. I’m damn proud of you. Now go change the world.

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