alden was my camp counselor in summer camp. i went to mt. gilead every year from 4th grade until i was a senior in high school. it was a long time ago, but i'll never forget the day my best pal mark and i walked into our cabin and met alden. 'big al', we called him...or maybe he said we could call him that...i don't really remember. that was almost 20 years ago, and alden and I are still friends. that first summer was magical...almost like our very own version of "stand by me". alden instilled in us a passion for mt.dew, vans, skateboarding, bmx, and we all thought he was the coolest guy ever!
as years have gone by, our relationship turned from 'camper/counselor' to friends. the age difference seemed to matter less as we got older and a couple times a year i'd get a call from alden, just to see how things were going. i remember he had a bmx bicycle company at one point....homestead bicycles. then i remember him calling me one day to tell me he had been writing some songs and was really getting into music. then years passed...i got married, had some babies...a blur of history in my mind. the next time i spoke with alden he was talking a lot about writing and filming. short films actually. one of them was quite a dill. he had started with still photography years back, but now he seemed to be on the movie making journey. i always admired his ability to follow his dreams. to just go for it. i know that it's tough for me to see all of the sacrifices from the other side of the glass, and i'm smart enough to know that he had many to make, but i still always thought how cool it would be to just pick up and go. to grab your dream and run. alden does that.
a couple weeks ago alden called. he was on I-80 heading past our town and thought of me. that's usually how it works. he'll call as he's driving through town. it always makes me wonder if he can stay on the phone his whole trip...ringing all his old friends every time he drives past. he asked how our family was doing and i brought him up to speed on our year as quickly as i could. it was like cramming an elephant into a bikini...not pretty. then he told me about his dad. HIS DAD? i remember thinking as he was talking...."i don't know anything about his dad"??? alden had always talked about his mom...his brother...but never his dad. he told me a story about how his dad left them when he was young. he went through a pretty typical response pattern i would imagine...confused, hurt, angry. i would suspect that after awhile you just get tired of carrying all of that so you become ambivalent to the situation. he told me how he knew when he started making films that he would have to tell the story of his life, and more specifically his dad's role or lack there of.
alden recently found out that his dad was very sick and lived out in the wilderness all alone. after leaving his family, alden's dad dedicated his life for 40 years to the conservation and education of our natural resources...the forests, the land, the earth. alden new that he needed to find his dad and take care of him. this shocked me! why on earth would he feel compassion towards the man that had abandoned him and his family?
after he found his dad, alden ended up spending months with him...making all of his meals, taking him to the doctors appointments...getting to know him. who he was. finding out that he had been an inspiration to so many people. that he had impacted countless others with a love for the earth and all it's beauty. alden told me in one moment when his dad was telling about his life of conservation and alden reminded him that after all he had given to the earth, that now in his time of need...he was alone with no one to take care of him. and honestly, i think that was the answer to my question of why. why would alden feel compassion to the man that chose to leave...because now, he had no one except his son. and i believe in that moment that alden not only found forgiveness for that man, but he also found a father.
it was an incredibly profound 20 minutes we spent on the phone. alden was on his way back home to LA when we spoke, positive now that he had to make a movie about his dad. and once again, he's doing it....taking his dreams and running. here's the trailers...keep an eye out for it at the independent film festivals. enjoy!