Expressway: Dad gets the family moving

Bill Wagner of Huntington and his family, from Bill Wagner of Huntington and his family, from left, daughters Kristy, Lisa, Nancy, wife Millie and son Bill

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Many years ago as my children slowly emerged from the dark ages of teenagehood, I noticed a trend on Father's Day. All four would be at the house, the two older girls arriving from their city apartments, with their boyfriends in tow, and a younger son and daughter arriving from college. They would bring me presents and wait for their mother to serve the Father's Day meal.

Frankly, it was just like a wake. No one was having fun, nothing intellectual was going on, nobody was involved in physical activity. They were just there to be with me.

To hell with that, I thought. Why not plan MY day, instead of just letting it happen? Take charge, I thought. I have them at a moment where they will do what I want. What an unusual opportunity.

I came up with the idea of Father's Day Adventures. I would pick some activity and we would all participate, like it or not.

The first year I suggested white-water rafting on the Delaware River. The kids looked at me as if I had lost my mind. As Father's Day drew closer, they started to have concerns. How safe was this? Would we have a guide?

We stayed at a quaint hotel in Jim Thorpe, Pa., the night before and then joined a rafting group at the Delaware. Our trip along the river was awesome. We crashed and splashed for a few hours, with everyone laughing and screaming. At the end, the boyfriends turned the raft over with me in it!

The next year we went to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, 90 miles north of New York City. This beautiful resort has a rock-climbing trail on a cliff overlooking a lake. One of my older daughters didn't quite trust me and arrived a day early to check things out. She climbed the rocks with her boyfriend and got so shook up, she wouldn't climb the next day, Father's Day. (I protested because I didn't get to hear her scream on my day.)

The climb wasn't really difficult. The trail was marked and there were even steps and ladders here and there to assist us. We encouraged each other through difficult spots, and twisted and turned our bodies through some rocky openings, while we laughed and made fun of ourselves. At the top we were greeted with a magnificent view of the valley below and the spring beauty of the surrounding Shawangunk Mountains.

Our next annual outing was horseback riding in South Huntington. This may not seem too adventurous, but it was a lot of fun. My children had never ridden and at one point one of them got upset, thinking the horse was trying to bite her (the same daughter who climbed the rocks ahead of time). We chuckled as the guide explained that the horse was just trying to chase flies away with his head because "horses have no hands!" Another daughter had fits because her horse kept wandering into the woods. We laughed hysterically while she screamed at the horse.

I envisioned several more adventures -- climb Mount Washington in New Hampshire, kayak on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown, etc. -- but we never did another one. The children grew up and moved away. Now when I think back on my 43 Father's Days, those three adventures are the ones that make me smile.

Reader Bill Wagner lives in Huntington.

You also may be interested in: