By Walter Rutledge
Every time we have a real snowstorm it brings back one the most lasting and endearing early memories I have of my father. I was six years old; we lived in a quiet residential Northeast Bronx neighborhood. (Yes there are quiet neighborhoods in New York City.) Back then we didn’t have a formal sidewalk the grassy front lawn meandered into a roughly paved street that seemed to be more dirt than asphalt.
The weatherman had predicted a blizzard for the tri-state area. That meant two things; first the grocery stores would be in short supply of staple items, and second school would be closed. (Snow and no school, that’s like a second Christmas!)
My mother informed my father we should get some extra milk just in case. The streets were already impassable, so driving was not going to be an option. At a little after seven o’clock in the evening my father said, “Come on Walt lets go to the store.”
I was so happy to be included on this important mission- it was a man thing. Although the store was only three blocks away to me this was an epic sojourn of Lewis and Clark proportion. More importantly this was an adventure with my Dad.
We (my brother, sister and I) were the children of a second marriage. My standing joke was my father worked hard to get it right this time. He was a good father and a great friend- I miss him. My most memorable adventures were always with my Dad.
My mother prepared me to “go forth”. She dressed me in a stylish red, tan and brown-checkered jacket and dark brown insulated snow pants. Wool mittens and red galoshes completed the ensemble; then a wide wool scarf almost surgically wrapped around my neck. When the hood was tied it pushed my cheeks literally into my eyes. After a quick, but thorough inspection Mom determined I was now ready.
I hugged my Mom goodbye (as if this adventure was going to last days) Once outside my Dad and I paused at the front gate to take in the awesome beauty. The beams from the streetlights carved into the falling snow refracting it like diamond dust glistening in the pools of artificial light. Despite the swirling snow and wind the snowflakes seemed to rest gently one on top of the other.
The snow kept getting in my eyes and at first it was hard to keep up. My father was testing me allowing me to find my own way, but it was hard because the snow was already waist deep (remember I was six). It was important for me to keep up, after all I was a big boy and we had to bring the milk home.
Then I realized if I walked in my father’s footsteps, the path he was making for me I could keep up. I immediately changed my course to walk in his footsteps, because I know by following him I would arrive at my destination. We eventually arrived home triumphantly with milk and more important with a lifelong memory.
My father passed in 1998. He was an excellent role model, a good provider, but what he truly gave us was the time he spent with us- a priceless gift. He was at every baseball game, took us fishing, or to the movies and most of all he listened to us. He made our dreams as monumental to him as they were for us.
The story and the significance of the memory was the ability to trust the path my father made for me. For this reason my father is always with me and I am still walking in the safety of his footsteps today. In many ways it has given me the faith to trust the path the Everlasting Father provides for us all. To have the courage and strength to walk in His footsteps knowing that the path will always take us where we need to go- even in the midst of a storm.
In Photo: Walter Rutledge and brother Barry