Most kids fall into two categories, either “I want to be exactly like my parents” or “I want to be completely opposite of my parents”.
When I was a child, every vacation that my dad got to choose was exploring the Washington rivers or Oregon lakes or Utah whitewater. My dad loved these environments, and now when my parents shake their heads at me for refusing to leave these same places, I just think that the reason that I love these places so much is because my Dad introduced me to them.
I got lucky to be in that “please please please let me end up just like my parents” category. I’m working on it every day. The love for water came easy. Recently, as I was wandering around Barnes and Nobles on a rare free afternoon, I realized I had also grown into his ideas of what a ‘relaxing activity’ looked like. My 7 year old self would find it disgusting that outdoor work and washing my car weaseled their way in there too. I carry a tool box and sleeping bag in my car, and can change my own oil thanks to my Dad’s good lessons. I’m also stubborn enough not to ask for directions (unless I’ve been lost in a rice field for over an hour) and deal with problems with that same straight face, seemingly endless questions, and the classic “well that’s disappointing” response that I dreaded growing up. He passed on his sense of humor (embodied in dry jokes that no one really understands) taste buds for spicy foods, dark beer, and strong coffee, as well as a typically mellow temper that keeps us from tossing our helmets at co-workers on a regular basis.
It was my Dad who made me understand that it was important to tell the truth, even when it was really hard, and taught me that I had the courage to do so. He also taught me to believe that I was strong enough to handle whatever might follow. He taught me to take ownership of the things that I did, whether it was a mistake that I needed to own up to, or spending far more time than the rest of the fourth graders on an incredibly accurate 3D model of the fine state of Utah.
My Dad showed me the importance of finding my own serenity. His love for water stems from that, and from spending that time with him in canoes on calm lakes, rowing through rapids, and fishing from river banks, he introduced me to that connection as well. That has brought me back to the Northwest as an adult, to stand on the banks of the Washington white water and find a sense of peace and balance in the chaos of the river.
He taught me integrity, honesty, and loyalty. He taught me to be unwavering in these things; to seek them out in others and in my day to day life. He taught me that few things were more valuable than respect, both in giving it to others as well as striving to earn it in return.
He taught me to make good decisions and to mitigate rough situations. He taught me that listening and observing are much more important than being well heard in these things. From the world of engineering, he taught me to collect data to make good decisions…not data in numbers, but data from the people around me, data from what I felt and believed, data from what had been done in the past and what the results were.
He’s shared secrets with me despite my inability to keep them as a child. He’s set the bar really, really high for any men that might come into my life. My dad believed in me to do the right thing, to try my best, that no matter where I went or what I did, that I was capable of being rich in life. He believed that I was capable of things that I didn’t think I was, and held me to the high standards of his beliefs. He made me a better person in that, because eventually, after believing in me for so long, I started to believe in myself too.
We’ve planned a special Father’s Day trip on June 18th to celebrate the most influential men in our lives on the Klickitat River. Spend the day on the continuous wave trains that make their way through the deep wilderness on the flanks of Mt. Adams! Sign up now to share this amazing experience!
Courtney Zink is a part of the Wet Planet guide staff and office team. Her fourth favorite thing about rafting is a tie between midnight runs and sandwiches. Her dad, Lee, is the world’s best car packer with a passion for turning everyday scenarios into math problems. Courtney attributes at least half of her magical skills to him.