“What do we do now?,” I asked.

“Guess we will have to find another way,” said my dad, as he peered over the edge of the cliff.

We stood at the end of a trail on a three-sided cliff surrounded by gullies of snow on each side. Our GPS gave us two possible trails for climbing and descending the 14,000-foot Mount Middle Teton in Wyoming.

The hike started like any other hike my Dad and I have completed. The weather was perfect and the trail was clear save for some snow we easily navigated with our ice axes. We safely climbed one trail up to the summit and decided to try a different trail for the descent. As we began climbing down, we noticed ominous dark clouds gathering in the background. We picked up our pace so we would avoid the quickly approaching storm- only to discover the second trail was a dead end. Our only safe option was to re-trace our steps back up the mountain above the snow to our left so that we could climb down our original trail. This backtrack added several more hours to our climb.

Because of the setback, the storm, which turned out to be a hailstorm, caught up with us. The storm eventually passed us, but then dusk approached and we had to complete our climb in darkness with only the help of a headlamp loaned to us by another hiker. We projected our climb to take 13 hours, but it actually took an exhausting 18 hours to complete

This accurately describes the journey of my father and I through life together.

Photo Courtesy of Kendall McCullough
Photo Courtesy of Kendall McCullough

My father plays a vital role in the story of my life. Life often did not go the way we planned. I was the first child, also known as the experiment child. I share many personality traits with my dad: stubborn, independent, occasional anger and perfectionism. As you can imagine, we often butted heads. My parents held a very high standard for me. I often struggled to meet this standard. Many nights I cried myself to sleep because I had gotten in trouble with my dad.

However, I always knew that he loved me. Often at night after work, he would wrestle with me, or I would give him back massages. Many nights I went to him with my math homework. He would stop whatever he was doing and explain how to do a problem, even as the night grew long and my brain grew fuzzy. He stayed patient with me and because of his help, I never fell behind in class.

As I’ve aged and matured, my dad and I have grown personally, and in our relationship with one another. Like most young teens, I thought I knew it all. But as I got older, I learned that I really don’t know a whole lot. This helped me realize my dad’s discipline was for my own good. His anger stemmed from fear of me doing something that could hurt myself, or others, in the future. My dad had taught me through his own journey of growth to stop and think before reacting in anger toward situations or other people. His grace has grown as his anger has lessened.

Besides supporting my own transitions in life, my dad manages his work life to best support his family. He is an engineer, who has worked for several companies and survived several downsizes. He now works at home, which gives him more time with us. He has had the opportunity to move up in the company and earn a bigger salary, but that would require him to move to a large city and spend more time working. He chose not to accept a promotion in his family’s best interest.

My Dad is my first and closest mentor. He serves selflessly in many areas in life. He owns a photography business, but takes pictures solely for family and friends, giving them the pictures for free or minimal cost. He serves as an Elder for my church, as well as helping with singing and running the digital slides. He even leads the college group..

When my father walks in a room, he makes everyone feel special, making time to talk to each person. He always makes time to answer my questions or just to spend time with me. My dad is not big on critiquing and instructing my family about every little thing. He leads by example, which allows my family to love and flourish together. I know many people do not have good relationships, or even have a father. I am very thankful for my dad.

I would not be where I am today without him.