Rather than staying at home and be a dutiful father and husband this last weekend, I drove up to Washington State, and was a buddy.

The obligations and duties of being a father and husband are myriad and intimidating, far too comprehensive and mind-bogglingly tedious to recite in this space. Entire volumes could be (and have been) written on how to properly parent, and how to nurture your relationship with your spouse.

The obligations and duties of being a buddy are a bit simpler:

Chip in for beer
Be sympathetic
Tell off-color jokes

Being a buddy is quite literally a vacation compared to being a parent.

The three of us had gathered together because one of us is going through a divorce. He is currently living in the vacation home of a relative on Hood Canal, and trying to keep himself from going insane while he sits in a quiet house, by himself, thinking about his sons, and trying not to dwell on his marriage as it grinds inexorably toward a messy conclusion.

Beer. Check.
Sympathy. Check.
Off-color jokes. Always.

The three of us have been close friends forever, it seems. We have backpacked together, seen countless movies together, and weathered the storms and sunshine of nearly three decades. It very well may be that the best thing we could do for our friend right now was to serve as a reminder that, for all that we may annoy each other or amuse each other in turn, our friendship is an anchor that has outlasted many of the transitions in his life. High school, college, courtship, marriage, fatherhood, we have weathered them all, and while the nuances of our companionship may shift and slide, ebb and flow, the foundation of it remains solid. I’d like to think that this provides him some comfort right now. At least I hope it does.

So we sat on the deck at his residence-in-exile, admiring the tops of the Olympic mountains peeking over the ridge on the opposite shore, and enjoying their reflection on the smooth-as-glass surface of this arm of Puget Sound. And we drank beer when we were thirsty, and we ate junk food when we were hungry. And the rhythms of the weekend were far slower, and far more relaxing than the ones I am accustomed to. Driving home on Sunday, I felt quite bit more relaxed, and had regained perhaps a bit of perspective myself.

Sunday night, after dinner, I was trying out a new game for the Nintendo DS, when my son came running back to the family room.


(Why is it that when a toilet overflows, it is always the one that is the furthest away from where you happen to be at the time?)

Sure enough, by the time I pounded back to the kids’ bathroom, water was cascading over the rim of the toilet, across the floor, and down the furnace vent.

Sigh. So much for being a buddy. I was back to being a Dad.