This post on the backpack is somewhat different from the first, but it was an incident on my Camino walk that made a significant impact on me and how I viewed things. It was a beautiful sunny day in Estella, on the outskirts of the town, an earth track led up to the rear of Bodegas Irache, with its famous wine fountain. Here pilgrims could fortify themselves for the journey ahead. There was a small courtyard at the back of the Bodegas, on the wall of the building were two spigots, one dispensed cool drinking water the other red wine. An interesting place which, for obvious reasons, was popular with pilgrims. The fortification for the journey ahead was a welcome respite.
I left the Bodegas and continued on the trail, leaving the town behind. On the outskirts of the town was a small play area for children. I noticed a young family with a little girl playing in the park, I thought nothing of it, but for some reason I did take notice, thinking they were locals. Later in the day, I met them on the trail outside of Villamayor. I had stopped to eat, when they passed by, there were two little girls, the mother and father. The father was towing a small trailer and carrying a backpack, the mother had a backpack and the oldest girl had a backpack.
A short time later I caught up with them, pulling up the rear of the little entourage was the mother. I spoke with her and learned they were walking the Camino with their three daughters, they were from British Columbia. Their daughters were six, eight and ten. I had to stop at a watering station and fill my water bag, the family moved on and entering Villamayor I caught up with them. I talked with them for a while and then proceeded to pass, as we were starting a relatively steep incline. Up until that point I noticed two children, as I was passing, I glanced in the small trailer the father was towing and noticed a little girl. She appeared to be sleeping, the mother said she was born with a rare disease, she can’t walk or talk, she is the eight year old. The mother told me they were walking ten kilometers a day.
I bid them a safe journey and told them I thought they were a brave couple. I then continued up the incline and at the top I stopped and looked back at this brave family and to offer up a prayer for their safety. As I stood watching them, a strange feeling came over me, which reflected on me, as much as on them. It brought tears to my eyes. The thought encompassed them and me. The ten-year old daughter was carrying a backpack, the mother and father were also carrying backpacks. I thought, that little girl should not have to carry a backpack and neither should the mother. The father should be carrying his wife’s but he already has a backpack.
Then I saw myself, in the past, I had been loaded down with my backpack, my wife carried a backpack and so did the children when they were young. I realized I should have carried my wife and children’s backpack but I was burdened with my own. I had to get rid of mine to carry hers. She had more than done her part when she labored for each one of the children, it was my responsibility to labor and take her backpack. I think that was when I realized there is more to being a husband, I also had to be a father and then I would be carrying her backpack and the children’s. It was too late now, but strangely it did not bring regrets, it was almost as if I realized the responsibility I still have as long as I have a wife. I mentioned in the previous post my backpack was weighed down with fear, doubt, anxiety and a host of other unnecessary things and was very stressful. Just as it is not a cake walk for a woman laboring for a child, it is not a cake walk for the man if he is going to carry his wife’s backpack. He labors as well for his backpack to be unloaded from the heavy stressful load and loaded with love, all his wife has to carry then is love and love causes no stress. I realized that day, the responsibility of being a husband and father. Fatherhood belonged to me and only me, I was the spiritual component of the family.
A couple of days later I met a person that stayed a night at an Albergue with this family and learned that the child was born with this rare diease and had to be fed intravenously, they could’t remember what the diease was. Each day the couple would send a backpack ahead to their next stop with everything needed for that little girl.