The picture includes myself, Brandon Page (Aidan’s dad), and Aidan Page in a tree. At first glance this picture just looks like a huge tree that Aidan and I decided to climb one day, but there is so much more to the scene. Several years prior to the picture, the family and some friends were talking about what it meant to be a leader and Aidan spoke up and made a comment that he didn’t see me as a leader. The ironic part about his statement was (and this is not intended to brag, just to give a better understanding of the scene) that I have spent many hours in leadership training and most of my career has been in managing and leading others, so this statement from Aidan came as a little bit of a shock. So when we asked what it meant to be a leader to him, his comment was that a leader is someone that climbs a tree and he had never seen his dad climb a tree. We all had a big laugh about this, but this was Aidan’s perception of a leader at that time.
Just as the picture is clear, my memory of the event is very clear as well but my memory expands well beyond the sides of the photo. In 2011 I had trained to run the NYC Marathon as a “life list” goal and Aidan, his older brother, his Mother, and myself all traveled to NYC for the event. The experience of being in NYC during this time will never fade. The picture itself was taken the day after the marathon on November 7th, 2011 as the four of us were walking through Central Park. It was a beautiful day and the air was crisp but not cold. It was an amazing scene to just watch our two boys experience one of the beautiful parts of NYC. The high energy of the city was all around us and yet there was a calmness as we walked through the park and came across ponds and bridges and huge boulders. There were gorgeous trees all throughout the park but there was one particular tree that stood out from all the rest. I remember thinking how beautiful and grand this tree was and Aidan must have seen it about the time I did because he immediately spoke up and asked if he could climb the tree.
I remember at first thinking it was probably not a good idea. There were no signs but I was cautious/nervous about getting into trouble for climbing this tree in Central Park? But then I remembered what Aidan had said about being a leader and remember thinking this would be a moment that I could share with him and have as a memory forever. So I decided to live by the rule of asking forgiveness rather than permission and I said “sure, you can climb it and I’m going to climb it with you”. It was thrilling to climb such a giant tree and the feeling of youthfulness came back to me as I reached to pull myself up. Aidan was like a monkey and scurried up the tree with no problem and I was excited to show Aidan that his dad was a true “leader”.
What is not clear in the picture is how beautiful and enormous this tree was sitting there in the middle of Central Park. The base of the tree was ten to twelve feet in diameter and it is not clear the height of the tree or how high we had climbed compared to the ground. What Aidan probably didn’t realize at the time and what is not shown in the picture is how painful it was for me to climb that tree. I had just run 26.2 miles the day before and my legs had definitely not recovered. It was painful just to walk through the park but I remember thinking there was nothing that was going to keep me from having this moment with my son.
As we climbed down the tree, I remember having to jump down about five feet at the bottom which almost killed me, but it was definitely worth the pain for that moment. The next few minutes, the family joked about how I was finally going to be a leader in Aidan’s eyes as we went back to that time when Aidan had said that a leader was someone that climbs trees. We made note of where that tree was and we talked about coming back to that tree when Aidan is 50 and I’m close to 80 and climbing that tree again for another photo. It’s moments like this that stay with you forever.
Aidan and I relived this moment four years later in 2015. Same tree in Central Park!