Friday, July 21, 2006

Hiking with my father

For the first time in several years, I was on a summit with my father today.
It felt good.
I missed it.
Dad was the inspiration, the engine and the driving force behind my moutaineering hobby/obsession. For many years after my first summit of Longs Peak, perhaps Colorado's most climbed mountain (and one of its hardest), when I was 15, we visited dozens of summits together, even taking a trip to Washington to climb Rainier together in 1994 and again in 1997, when we spent a week on the mountain in the winter.

Things change, as they always do, but this is not a story about me getting older and finding my own way. Dad got divorced and then remarried to a younger woman (don't roll your eyes, it's not one of THOSE) who had three young children. He then had a baby with her, at age 60 (please, no comments about how his trout must be still swimming upstream, I've heard them all), and that wiped out pretty much all the climbing we had together.
Dad, in fact, stopped working out because he's now too busy carting the kids to soccer, baseball, etc.
The life choices hurt me a bit, but I didn't begrudge him too much. It was, after all, his decision, and he still managed to make it known that I was an important part of his life.
It's possible, without delving into some serious psycho therapy (yes, the pun is intended, because with me that's what it would be) beyond this blog, that his decision to stop climbing with me because he was too busy lit a fire under me, pushing me to complete all 54 14ers in five years, something that usually a climber 15 or 20 years, if they do it at all (and most don't). Maybe I was saying, OK, fine, I can do it on my own, just watch me. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done, right behind having a child and getting married (deciding to play poker falls right behind the 14ers).

I don't know if it will ever be the same again. He's 65 now, so even if he did work out, something he still doesn't do, he'd be slow and probably unable to do the epic stuff we used to tackle. He even took the wrong way down, which was my usual move before he moved on, and, in a sense, so did I. He's still got it, but he's got it in the sense that an aging NFL player still can take the field without embarassing himself but may not score many TDS anymore.

Still, Saturday was special. I got up at 3 a.m., drove up to our meeting place, absorbed his jokes about my morning attitude (which is grouchy and sour, if you must ask). We talked about work, laughed about our kids and got into a bit of his tour in Vietnam, something we hardly ever discuss.
You may not be able to go home again, unless home is a summit. For many years, it was. It was nice to sit on that front porch once again.


Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

Really nice stuff Peak.

I definitely see where you're coming from emotionally. My interest in medicine was cultivated by my hero-worship of my double boarded dad (an internist and a psychiatrist). Medicine has given us a language that has bridged the expanses that work, marriage, kids unwittingly create.

slb159 said...

Hey Peak,
Good to see you got to spend some quailty time with your Pop. Industry has moved me away from my family and most of them have passed on, even though I'm still fairly young.
Great work by JJJ in setting up that kick-ass banner.
I'll have to add you to my Yahoo IM and we can girlie chat it up sometime and join a blogger cash game. They're a lot of fun.
Mountain climbing? Lol...I'd be more like Homer in the "PowerSauce" episode where he used like 15 tanks of O2 in the first 15 feet of climbing the "Murderhorn."
Great work!

TripJax said...

Something you will no doubt never forget...