At the top of my property, next to our secret forest, I built a small workshop. As a young boy I was a compulsive fort builder. Whether I made forts out of pillows and blankets, or an empty cupboard, cardboard box or simply the space between the wall and a long couch; wherever there was a void I filled it with my imagination. I sought for spaces invisible to others and would use them to step away from the known world and build my own. Building things was a big part of my childhood and I am grateful for parents who never took that away from me.

So this workshop it is something of a fort – only a little cooler than the ones I built as a kid. It has a small refrigerator, microwave (for popcorn), TV/DVD player, lights and more. It isn't fancy, but it is magical, especially for kids. I remember showing it to Mitch for the first time and he said, “Dad, you mean we can make popcorn up here? Can we keep our favorite popsicles in this freezer?” I answered yes, to which my son said, “Coooool.” 

When winter came, nothing was more exhilarating than to look out the window and see approaching storm cross the valley and finally surround us in a snow-globe like flurry; all the while we were snug in our fort, warmed by a heater and listening to Christmas music while building stuff that was fun. 

I built the shed primarily as a workshop so my kids could have a place to get away and build things – but most importantly to build their confidence and skills. We first started by building bases for their little Star Wars and Halo figures. I would go to a craft store and fill the shopping cart with raw materials and then invite my boys to make something. They would use a hot glue gun to build scaffolding, meld blocks, rocks and trees to a spray-painted foam core board. They even attached tiny battery operated lights for their night battles. Sometimes I wish I were still a kid. 

I was surprised to see my boys become more aware of the world around them and how they would often find small rocks, twigs and other things … things the world thought rubbish and say, “Dad, this would be great for one of our bases.” 

I helped where I was needed, but for the most part I put them in motion and stepped aside and let my children freely explore. I marveled watching them build things with their imagination. This photo of Mitch and one of the many bases he built brings back great memories. He was so proud of it and I was so proud of him.

In my workshop remain uncompleted bases Mitch, Ethan and I were working on the summer and fall of 2012. I think I’m going to take Ethan and Wyatt up there to finish them soon. Ethan is older now and he would rather skate with his friends – and that’s okay, too, because growing up means moving on to new and different things. But I hope a little of the young boy in Ethan remains and never grows up. 

There is still a little boy in me. Perhaps that, among many reasons, is why I have grieved so deeply over the loss of my son ... because the little boy in me lost a best friend, too. 

Though I wish I had more time to build forts and other things with my son, and my heart I cries that Mitchie is not with me, I know we are not on this earth to build forts, mansions, or riches. We are here to build the human soul; souls that know light from dark, pain and happiness, walk by faith and gain knowledge. 

I will keep building my other children the best I know how. I am certain to stumble and surely will fall, but I promise my children I will give them my all.