I flew. Thats right, I flew with your sister to New York City and back. Would you have gone with us? I thought about it while i was there. There were places and things like the Metropolitan Museum, “Phantom of the Opera” and “Wicked” that I think you would have wanted to see. The crush of people moving like a tide on the sidewalks of Times Square was unnerving.
I found the city to be a lonely place. I watched couples and threesomes walking together talking with animation as if they were the only ones on the sidewalk, preserving their little space as they walked. I saw others, bags looped over their arms, shoulders hunched head slightly down walking with long determined strides plowing through and around the crowds. I went out alone.
It took a lot of effort.
I went out alone but I had you in my head. I had your voice telling me that I could do it, and so I did.
One of your friends that you used to climb with just found out that you are gone. She wrote us a wonderful letter. It is like a word picture of you. She writes well and her observations were so on target concerning the things I knew to be true about you.
“Your son was a very thoughtful and introspective person who calculated his speech. He never wasted words. Each of his words meant something and were always delivered at the precise moment, which I always admired. He also had amazing comic timing. Most importantly he always said the right thing at the right time.”
She related a couple of climbing experiences:
“. . .It was the first time I had ever climbed a route like that and I was pretty scared. We usually bouldered, or we started routes from the bottom and went up. At this crag, we had to start higher and work our way down. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but your son was with me the whole time. He was very reassuring and fully explained everything that was going on. He kept telling me that I was on North Carolina granite and I had 5.10 rubber on my feet! Trust those feet!
Again, ironically enough, I was climbing in Estes Park last month in a place full of gneiss granite (reminded me of NC). And I had your son’s voice in my head saying “you’re on NC granite and you have 5.10 rubber on your feet). It was my boyfriend’s first climbing trip and I repeated this story to him as he was about to climb his first route.
Several years ago, a friend and I were climbing in North Carolina near Winston-Salem (where my family is from). I slipped on some lichen and twisted my ankle. I wasn’t able to climb for a few months. When it was time to climb again, I went up to the crack rock with your son and another friend. We decided to rope up and do the crack, which wasn’t nearly as high as some routes, but it was high enough to be intimidating. I got halfway up and froze. I asked your son to let me down. And he said no. He said he knew that I could do that route and I knew that I could do that route, but that I was just scared. I asked again for him to let me down (with a bit more hysteria this time). He very calmly told me that I could do it and that if I came down now, I’d probably never get back on a rock. He said “I’ve got you, you are not going to fall. I can hold you here all day and you are not coming down until you finish.” The calmness in his voice did wonders in calming me down, I turned around and finished the climb. I was so happy that I did. He was absolutely right. In my time in Colorado, I have done the exact same thing to some newer climbers. Each time I do it, I think of him and how his calm voice made the difference for me. I’ve passed this along to others and have told them the same story that I just told you.”
I am happy that I went to New York with your sister. We needed that time together. I needed to prove to myself I could do it. I think receiving your friend’s letter before the trip was a help for me. I heard your voice so clearly in her words. I could hear your calm reassurance once more.
Sweetheart, I can’t pretend that I don’t have moments and days of hysteria. It has not ceased to seem impossible that you are really gone. Here in this place I admit it because I think it is wrong to pretend otherwise, but on the street – out there I put on my best face and go on.
I know when you spoke to your friend and urged her to continue her climb you did so because you had experienced the same gripping fear at some point.
When I sat in the airport and watched he anxious faces I knew everyone there had some level of concern over the flight. Perhaps this one would be the one! As the plane touched down and brakes were applied and it slowed you could feel everyone relax.
That day you died you kissed me and went out with all the confidence the day deserved. No one can explain why you did not come back. It shakes my confidence in life itself. I am having a hard time trusting life anymore. Perhaps it never should have been trusted in the first place. But there in New York I heard you urging me on in those valleys made by man among the steaming streams of humanity. I heard you chide me “doom and gloom, doom and gloom! ”
It is nearing Thanksgiving and people are posting on Facebook the things they are thankful for. It is a good exercise for the human heart. I am thankful, but I am also fearful and grief is a relentless companion. It waits for me patiently in every quiet moment with memories of you in hand.
As dampened as those memories are with my tears I am thankful I have them.
I love you and miss you.