We were swingin’

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

Spring is just humming along, isn’t it?

There are moments that come out of nowhere that kind of define life. I had one this weekend. Bittersweet.

About eight years ago, my ex, Kathleen, and I bought one of those massive cedar swingsets for the kids. We assembled it in our backyard in Sparks, and when we bought the new pad in Reno, it came with us—a huge undertaking in its own right.

Over the years, the various parts broke off or wore out: The wind took the shade structure at the top; Danny caught the rope climbing net in the lawnmower; the ladder/rock-climbing wall had a rung broken and was removed; Simone (the dog) chewed the yellow plastic two-person swing. Year by year, piece by piece, it just fell away. Twice, I repaired the structural stuff that kept the swing part of the set from becoming a death trap.

Last spring, when I built a new garden in the backyard, I included the swingset in the design, knowing that one day it was going to come down, and shrubs and flowers would grow in its place. Last fall, Hunter and I discussed whether to remove it. “One more year, Dad.” Saturday, as I watched soon-to-be-12-year-old Hunter swinging—the whole structure undulating like a snake in water—I realized that it was time for the scrap heap. Patches and replaced parts would never again be enough to keep safe my child and his friends.

I’ve got so many snapshots in my mind of that danged thing: Amy, Danny and Hunter laughing and climbing and swinging; Dante (the dog) climbing up the slide; Brian (the neighbor) helping to move it to Reno; the little bird I put on the platform to save it from Prometheus (the cat), Hunter swinging in his too-short jeans.

And now it’s gone. No shrubs to fill the hole in the garden. Just a vacuum in my heart because that departed swingset is a sign of things to go.