My son loved the products of the company Patagonia. I think he pictured himself being like Yvon Chouinard, leading a life of learning and exploration. He held in common with Mr. Chouinard the love of climbing, environmentalism and falconry. Mr. Chouinard is now 75 years old and I assume continuing to practice his many interests.
In a room downstairs that served as our son’s bedroom for many years before he began graduate school there reside his possessions. I am not sure when or if I can part with those things. His clothes still smell of him. I know that the climbing ropes are of no use. They are one of those things that need to be replaced often. As for the clips and carabiners, the hooks and climbing shoes – I feel a certain animosity. I cannot give them to another climber. My fear that something would happen while using something of my son’s stops me. I cannot throw them away. I cannot sell them. Now, 2 years old – they are probably worthless – not having been used and maintained.
There are many shirts, jackets and shells in those stacks of clothes that have Patagonia labels. I keep thinking I will pull them out and use them. The plaid shirts stop me in my tracks. I don’t know if I can bear to see anyone else in them.
With the holiday season upon us I realize I need to do some shopping. There are stores I still feel drawn to go into to look for things the he would like. I think all bereaved parents and bereaved spouses find that part of this season particularly difficult. The close proximity of those things we know they would like and enjoy make us flinch away at times.
For awhile we got the Patagonia catalogues addressed to him after he died. The photos on the cover were always of people dangling from precarious perches exhibiting their daring-do and climbing expertise. I wanted to scream at someone – the climber, the company, the mailman for bringing such a painful reminder to me. I finally requested to be taken off their mailing list.
Today a friend shared a news story on Facebook about a Deep-water diver who died trying to set a record. The story was painful and graphic and I have to wonder for the family how much pain and horror it gives them to have his last moments so described. Or perhaps it gives them comfort. I don’t know.
I was comforted knowing how diligent those people were who ministered to my son out there where he fell. I was comforted by the staff from the hospital. My son was treated with dignity. But I am haunted too. Had I been there with him that day could I have helped to break his fall? Could I have stopped him from being so irreparably damaged? Yet, I was not there.
I was painting and oblivious that anything bad could happen on a sunny day in July – to someone I love.
We all have choices to make about where we will go and what we will do. Everywhere with every choice there comes inherent risk. Some risks are smaller than others but the risk exists. It is difficult to wrap your head around the fact that you are never in a position anywhere at any time that does not involve some level – however small- of risk.
I wish my son could have lived to be 75 and older. I wish he could have lived to part with me and not I with him in what we assume to be a more natural progression. I wish he had been with his sister in Ohio last night as the storms rolled by to terrify her. I wish he could see the car his dad is working on. I wish he could have lived to see Pinnacle Park’s new bridges and the purchase of Black Rock as a preserve. But wishing does absolutely nothing except to serve as an exercise to recite all those things that cannot be.
The strange thing about all this, is that I am becoming the more experienced climber. I climb out of the pit every day and walk around with my mask on. Some days are insurmountable, but I go where I can.