Men rarely speak of their dreams--I'm not talking about the surreal ones experienced at night that are routinely forgotten upon waking... but "goal" like long range ones. To do so can be too revealing or set you up for failure.
My dad was among those men. Like the men in movies he admired (a John Wayne - Gary Cooper type), he remained a quiet man who rarely spoke from his heart. To "read" this part you had to observe his actions, examine facial expressions/body language, and analyze what he said for deeper meanings.
The most obvious long term dreams Dad had involved family. He devoted his entire life to Mom and us "kids"--everything he did kept family in the forefront from selecting a neighborhood school district and home, to organizing scout troops, to taking annual family vacations to various states, to supporting our post high school education, and so much more. He would have done anything for Mom (including her "secret" wish to see Hawaii), but she constantly refused personal "wants" in favor of family priorities--she'd get mad if money was "wasted" needlessly on frills.... so Dad knew not to battle her on this (most of the time).
Ouside of family, I only recall two specific long term "dreams" that Dad expressed verbally--stocks and Colorado. Both involved retirement years...when he anticipated the last of his children would be on their own. More than once he remarked how he had always wanted to buy stocks; he also expressed a desire to move back to Colorado and live out his retirement years in the mountains.
Growing up during the Depression, he was always concerned about financial security. To some if may seem risky to get involved with Wall Street, but my dad was extremely well grounded in logic and well read as a scientist. He KNEW that there was a reason that banks were more than willing to pay a small interest to use your money for investments--that the long term odds for making money in the Market was very high as long as you avoided fly by night companies.
He began researching for this dream and began subscribing to the Wall Street Journal. He capitalized on his company's profit sharing plan when he retired, investing most of the funds into the Market. True to his conservative nature, he took no chances. He obtained a financial advisor through AG Edwards and invested only in blue chip companies that paid dividends (mostly in the energy sector); he figured that these companies would be around for generations to come.
Dad kept up with the Market and read his Wall Street Journal regularly. He was in for the long term so quickly adjusted to the Market's whimsical ups and downs and didn't fret about it. To quell Mom's fears, he even set up an account for her so she could see how Exxon-Mobil and others would make her portfolio grow (and stop her from worrying about his "risky" venture).
Dad did well with his Market dream. Colorado never panned out.
He could never relocate without Mom's full support, and she never grew up in Colorado like he had. She grew up in Illinois, a small town near Spoon River (of Edgar Lee Masters fame) and had now lived in Quincy for over four decades. Besides, my sister still lived in Illinois, and they could still drive five hours to see her and visit grandchildren.
Dad didn't bring up Colorado again in our presence for many years after he retired. He had pushed that dream back; after all, family still remained his highest priority... so whatever made Mom happy would be fine with him.
But unexpectedly in his late 70s, Dad made one of his rare "dream" statements during a family get-together: "I want to be on the top of Pikes Peak on my 80th birthday."
We all knew that this HAD to happen--Dad almosts never expressed any personal wishes. So a future family reunion was set in stone for Colorado Springs. Research revealed that there was a tram that ran to the summit, so Dad indeed made it to the top of Pikes Peak on July 5, 2001.
Now that he's gone to other worlds, my dad often returns in thoughts as I hike the mountains. Seems that it's the best place to "channel" him, plus I carry my prayer book and frequent pray in isolated locations along the trail.
Lately I've been drawn to Dad's Colorado mountain dream... and filling in details. Such dreams just don't pop out when you're 79 years old. Dad grew up in Penrose, Colorado in sight of Pikes Peak and likely dreamed of hiking its summit as a young boy--but they moved to the flat lands of Illinois when he was 12 so he never had a chance to climb Pikes Peak during his prime.
It wasn't until he was 41 that he got an opportunity to re-visit Colorado on a family vacation. I recall Dad mentioning how you could drive up Pikes Peak, but that received a sharp rebuke from Mom... so he settled for a compromise driving venture through Phantom Canyon that elicited numerous "DAD!" epithets from mom through scary hairpin turns. (He laughed as we all freaked out, bug eyed)
Dad probably would have liked to have driven up Pikes Peak on his 80th birthday, but by then his entire family had united behind the plan to venture forth ONLY via the tram. He relented and gave in to family wishes, but it seemed to me that something was missing at the top. Dad's eyes just didn't shine like someone who had achieved a lifetime dream.
So now it seems that I'm following up on this on various mountains. A few times (like a Colorado hike) I know that he's around; other times it's more a general sense of connecting. Pikes Peak certainly had meaning for my dad as he grew up in its shadow.
I grew up in Illinois and love wooded areas, yet mountains have held a fascination for me. I love traveling the world and have hiked in the Andes and in lower regions of the Himilayas. My dad would have never ventured that--he didn't even have a passport and had no desire to travel the world. But it seems he understands the need for climbing mountains. Kilamanjaro now looms as my ultimate personal "Pikes Peak."
If I take this on, it will definitely be the hardest thing I've ever done... This was pounded home once again a few weeks ago when turning back before reaching the summit of the San Pedro volcano in Guatemala. Kilamanjaro will take a ton of vigorous training to summit--and there are no roads nor trams leading to the top.
I know my dad will understand if I'm not able to make it, but currently it seems that he's encouraging me to give the effort. Mountains really are all about the striving and the journey...