Getting acquainted—a father and son getting to know each other, a mother and daughter realizing they have much in common and can be the best of friends—this is important.
One of the greatest needs in the world today is communication, and if this is the key to better understanding in the world, then it also unlocks the door to harmony and happiness at home. If we can communicate with each other at home, if we can discuss the problems involved in our lives, then we have a better chance for developing mutual trust and companionship.
As my wife and I talked about how to develop such companionship, we decided to single out one of our children and spend time and effort getting to know him better. So we planned that Mary, my wife, would take our daughter, Mary Lynn, with her to conventions and on trips whenever possible. It has worked wonders, as they have developed a special feeling of companionship.
Recently I shared an experience with my son Tom which is memorable to me. What a thrill it is to be known as your son’s pal, companion, friend!
We had been somewhat concerned about Tom; he had stayed home from MIA and Scouting activities and seemed to need to get “outside himself.” Maybe Tom would enjoy a father-son outing—just the two of us.
I am an LDS chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve, and an assignment takes me to Fort Hamilton, New York, for two weeks each summer. When I first explored the idea of taking Tom with me on a recent assignment, it seemed ridiculous. Taking a 13-year-old boy to an army base was out of the question. But the more I thought about it, and the more Mary and I discussed it, the more Tom’s going seemed important. Finally we made our decision. Tom would go with me. As if by magic, a special feeling of fun, excitement, and anticipation took hold of us all. Tom and I were about to share a great adventure.
As we boarded the plane in Idaho Falls and Tom said goodbye to his mother, brothers, and sister, he seemed very happy, and I could see pride come into his eyes as he shared the spotlight with his dad.
This was Tom’s first ride in a jet, and I was careful to give him a window seat and to explain what was happening. Again, there was that comfortable feeling of closeness between us. It was just Tom and me, and the rest of the world.
Tom’s enthusiasm made the trip seem much shorter than usual. After we landed at Kennedy Airport and found our luggage, we rode a bus through a large section of New York City. We then took a subway, changing at several stations until we reached Brooklyn, the last stop. Because of the lateness of the hour, we had a long weary walk to Fort Hamilton, but we finally trudged up to the guest house at the fort, and I presented my orders.
The clerk was surprised to see a 13-year-old boy present as part of an army assignment. Where could we stay? we asked. He scratched his head and said it was very unusual, but he could give us temporary quarters for the night in the guest house for officers with dependents. Tomorrow I would have to make other arrangements. The room had only the barest essentials, but Tom thought it was the greatest room in the world.
That night, as we knelt together to give thanks to the Lord for arriving safely and to ask him to protect our loved ones back home, I felt that Tom and I had never been closer.
Following breakfast the next morning in the mess hall, Tom walked across the Post with me to the chaplain’s school, and I advised him to stay close by until I returned. I could see he was a little frightened in the new surroundings and was apprehensive about being alone. But as it turned out, my assignment was to revise a staffing guide and I did part of this work in the library where Tom could be with me.
At noon on the first day, I returned to the guest house, and Tom and I moved to a nicer room. It even had its own bath.
The rest of the week soon fell into a pattern. Each day Tom would walk with me to the school and then meet me at noon. In the afternoon I worked in the library writing materials for the Army while Tom read books.
We always planned together what we would do after work. In New York there is plenty to do and much to see. We would board the subway and go into Manhattan. Once we went to Radio City Music Hall. Another time, we went to Madison Square Garden. We took the ferry around Manhattan Island. We talked about many things and this seemed to be a time when we had the opportunity to share our innermost feelings. While it was rather subtle, we found that we shared a firm dislike for sin and ugly things of life. This was a time of molding and carefully shaping the thinking of a young man through love and companionship.
We avoided as much as possible the evil and ugly in the city, focusing only on the many things of beauty. Yet Tom learned a great lesson as he saw broken lives and what happens when people leave the precepts given to us by the Lord. He told me how he wanted to live close to our Father in heaven so that he would never fall into a life where hope and beauty have vanished.
One of the highlights of our adventure was the opportunity to go to the Hill Cumorah Pageant with members of the Spanish-speaking branch in New York. It was a wonderful day as we traveled to Palmyra and listened to the testimonies of these people and their conversion to the Church.
The pageant bore a strong testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. A visit to the Sacred Grove further enriched our testimonies, as we knelt down and thanked our Father in heaven for his many blessings, especially the restoration of the gospel. It was a thrill to hear Tom’s prayer. To us, this trip to the pageant and the Sacred Grove were some of the great moments of our lives, and we were able to share these together.
Our final week in New York was filled with additional sightseeing tours, and many moments when we were able to talk and communicate in such a way as I never dreamed possible before.
When we arrived back in Idaho Falls, Tom had a look of love in his eyes for his mother, brothers, and sister. It was a glorious reunion, almost as if we had been gone a year.
Some months have passed since that great adventure, but I know I will always be closer to Tom, and Tom to me, because of that trip. There is a special feeling between us. It will never diminish. We shared a great adventure in life, and the closeness we felt will be part of our lives forever.