Can we walk back the clock?

There is a person in our neighborhood who walks past our house at least once a day. I should qualify that sentence. She walks backward by our house everyday. I have in fact, never seen her walk forward. It is always backward. Granted, she is headed forward, but backward. I have pondered her reason for this behavior and the best I could come up with is that she is either more concerned with where she has been than where she is headed or maybe, just maybe, she is taking the years back off her life. Walking back the clock. My fantasy is that she will walk by each day looking another day younger than the day before and that convinced of her success, I will join her in her routine and take back at least some of the years that have crept up on me. For sure I would take back a major portion of this last year.

I have always been overly obsessed with my age. In fact I have written about it multiple times and from multiple perspectives. But this year is different. Though I haven’t suffered directly from the pandemic, it has certainly cramped my style. I had big plans for the traveling I would do once I retired. Those plans had a lot to do with when I would retire. At some point in your life, it stops being about all the years that lie ahead and instead becomes about the number of years left. Life is like this project with a very long timeline for completion. At first, there is a tendency to procrastinate. Plenty of time to get all the steps completed, so no worries. I’ll get married one day and start that family. I’ll buy my first house and maybe even start a retirement account. At some point you realize you are half way through the timeline and worry begins to creep in, but you aren’t desperate because there still is time. Plenty of people further along their timeline. Let them do the worrying. And then suddenly it happens, the deadline is approaching and the clock is speeding up. Worry becomes fear that you might not complete the project. Time to retire, to get traveling, just keep moving.

This year has accentuated that fear. My travel plans were put on hold and a year of my opportunities, denied. So maybe, if I could walk backward for awhile, I could get that time back. Before you bombard me with advice and shower me with all those adages about age like, it’s not how many years old you are but how many years young you act, I know. Believe me, I know. It’s just that it’s such a pleasant fantasy to think you could have at least a few years back.

I’m not going to get into the argument of what would you change if you could. I have looked at my life, and though there have been missteps and even some bad choices, it has all led to where I am. Would I change anything? Would I be willing to risk not having the love of my incredible daughters, my unbelievable grandchildren, my beautiful wife? Would I give up the lessons I have learned along the way? The answer of course is no. But still, would I buy some more time if there was a way to do it? Then not what would I change, but what would I devote more passion to? How would I be careful to not waste the extra time?

I know she walks backward for some reason other than the one I have made up, but I want to stop her one day and have the conversation. Has the thought ever crossed her mind? Now if you happen to see me walking backward, promise me you won’t question my motives. Know that I am not afraid of the future, just motivated by the nearness of it.

Summer’s Gone

It would be a gross misstatement to say that this was a typical summer. As I write this blog, we are in the process of wrapping up our last week of cottage time. My wife shares the cottage they inherited from their parents with her two brothers and that means her time share amounts to five weeks every summer. In a normal year we might, at most, use parts of two or three weeks and then embark on more distant trips to all those places we dreamed our retirement would take us. Not so in the summer of COVID-19. All big travel trips had to be put on hold and with many of our local haunts closed or limited, the cottage proved to be the our only get away and this year saw us at the cottage for all of my wife’s five weeks.

I will be the first to say it, thank God for the cottage. We spent hours reading, hiking, kayaking, biking riding and if you are a regular reader, you know there was a lot of time spent watching my grandchildren fish, which by the way, is pure joy. There were evening campfires complete with the typical word games, stories and s’mores. There was the simple pleasure of spotting the lake’s two loons, the eagles as they soared above and the deer that would quietly visit our cottage as we sat stone still observing them. My grandchildren and I even invented several games, Road Golf being their most popular. With Road Golf, we took it so far as to write up the rules and then refine them as the game demanded. Note to my readers, send me a request via email and I’ll send you a copy of the rules. Equipment is minimal, a good rock and a pair of old shoes.

The five weeks spread out across three months flew by and here we are, a few days away from Labor Day and the traditional marking of summer’s end. The cottage will be closed up for the season as soon as my brother-in-laws’ final two weeks are logged. And then it will sit, silently enduring the long winter months and heavy snows of northern Wisconsin. But spring will eventually arrive and the cycle of family visits will start anew. The question will be, how will 2021 compare to 2020? Let’s hope more like the old normal we are all longing for now.

But it is what it is. We all traveled afar, far less. We visited our family and friends less in person and far more virtually. We reinvented our traditions, our birthdays, graduations and family celebrations. We read more and socialized less, we ate in way more than we used to eat out. Like it or not, COVID has changed us. Some of those changes may become permanent while others will have been just for now, just for the pandemic. Summer is not really gone, it actually has another month left according to the calendar. In this year, it might feel like it never existed, especially if we only look at what we didn’t get to do. But, if we can reflect on what we did do, especially those things that were different, well then it might have actually been a great summer.

Patience will see us through this. Paying attention to personal habits and keeping each other safe will make it pass quicker. Summer is ending, but it was never gone. And it will come again. Here’s hoping it will be COVID free next time around and that some of our new traditions and activities will survive the test of time and be part of it.

Happy Labor Day

Just Wear It

If we were asked to describe America with a single word it would more than likely be “freedom”. In America we have the freedom to state our opinion, no matter how controversial. We have the freedom to practice what ever religion we choose, or for that matter, no religion at all. We have the freedom to come and go as we please, to vote for and elect the people who would govern us, and yes, we have the freedom to own a gun if we so choose. The only true limit to our freedom is that we must respect the rights of others and do no harm by the exercise of our own freedom.

It has always been obvious that we owe these freedoms to the men and women who would sacrifice to protect those freedoms for us all, in some cases, to sacrifice their all. We honor our veterans and our current military personnel. Since the pandemic, we have for the most part honored our health care workers who have placed themselves in harms way as they fight to save the lives of those infected by the virus.

With that as my backdrop, I am perplexed by a behavior too many of us have adopted. We want the freedom of returning to our jobs, to our schools and churches, to the way of life we called normal. We honor all the people I mentioned above for the sacrifice they were and are willing to make for OUR good. So why, when we are asked to make a few simple sacrifices to stop this pandemic, some of us can’t seem to see fit to make them. We shout that masks are denying our freedom. We complain that schools must open whether they can promise to do it safely or not. We demand that we have the luxury to go back to socializing the way we did before the pandemic. If we want these freedoms, we must also be willing to sacrifice; social distancing in public, accepting limitations on service and yes, wearing a mask in public. Are any of these so hard to do? Are they really demands or just common sense? Isn’t it just a means to an end of something we all want ended?

Nike promoted the mantra, “Just Do It.” I am promoting this. We all want our freedoms intact, especially the pursuit of health and happiness. Help me protect you and in turn help to protect me. If we can be willing to sacrifice a little to end this plague, we will all have the hope of a healthy life and happier one in the long run.

Don’t tell me you have a mask, “Just Wear It.”

And there it was…….the Comet Appeared

They say a comet is an omen. In ancient times, because of the ‘disturbance’ it caused in the night sky, the omen it suggested was considered to be bad. Comets were thought to be sent by the gods as warnings and were associated with the death of kings and famous people or ironically, plagues. I wish to believe that this new comet in the night sky, Neowise, is maybe just the opposite. I choose to think it is a sign of the eventual end to this Covid plague and the hope for a vaccine.

Yesterday gave us one of those rare nights, that if you are fortunate enough to be away from the light pollution of the larger cities, you get to witness the millions of stars painting their spectacular light show across the canvas of the night sky. Last night, I was one of those fortunate few. My grandchildren and I are vacationing with my wife and daughter in the northern woods of Wisconsin, far from the city lights. I was excited, since having tried for multiple nights to view the comet back home in Madison, I had yet to spot it in the nighttime sky. This was going to be my best chance.

We have a cottage located in the southeast corner of our lake. With a heavy tree line, we were concerned that we would not be able to see low enough to the horizon where Neowise would be located. The time grew later and the sky grew darker. We ventured down to our pier where we found a crystal clear sky and no moon. Perfect viewing weather. As we looked to the northwest, we easily spotted the Big Dipper. Our Google search told us that on this night we would locate the comet straight below the lowest star of the Big Dipper, half way between that bottom star and the horizon. As we peered into the dark sky, we saw our view seemingly blocked by a large stand of trees. But then, as we moved our gaze downward, we saw through an opening in the branches what looked like a smudge of white against the backdrop of the dark sky. Grabbing the binoculars, my daughter exclaimed breathlessly, that she could see it. I and my grandson anxiously awaited our turn. When she finally relinquished the binoculars and our turns came, the comet did not disappoint. We stared in awe at the majesty of Neowise.

The head of the comet, clearly visible through the binoculars, appeared as a soft, fuzzy object and there, spread out in this huge fan shaped cloud of white, was its tail. The comet was so distinctly different and so much larger than anything else in the sky, that it simply grabbed your attention and made it impossible to look away. No wonder that those ancients were so awed and at the same time, fearful of a comet’s appearance. We explained to my grandson Jackson, what a unique experience viewing this comet afforded him. It would be another forty two years before another comet, Halley’s, would be back in our skies. I didn’t tell him, but I sincerely doubt that I will be around to see that event.

I have been fortunate to have viewed three comets before this latest one and, more than likely, my last. I saw, Comet Kahoutek in 1973, Halley’s comet in 1986, and Hale-Bopp in 1997. Though there are generally comets somewhere in our night skies at any time, most are not visible with the naked eye or do not display much of their tail. The tail is often pointed away from us or is simply to small to view. The three comets I mentioned, were visible and at least expected to put on a show. Truthfully, until my viewing last night, they were unimpressive with my meager viewing equipment. That is why last night’s viewing of Neowise has so inspired me. Knowing that I have no known great comets to look forward to, seeing Neowise in all its glory was so important.

Unlike the ancients, I am choosing this comet to be a good omen. I believe that 2020 is destined to go down as the year of the plague and that it will be one we all want to forget. Let’s for a moment believe that the appearance of the comet is telling us of better days ahead. Let’s, knowing that we have a forty-two year wait, not waste any of our days and years ahead. If Covid taught us anything, it is to realize the importance of the people around us, of our dependence on each other and of our need to take care of not only ourselves, but of humanity in general. Neowise can be a beacon showing us our way forward and an inspiration to keep going. Just as the comet unwaveringly follows its path, so we need to find our path, the path of caring for the things that matter.

Take some time, grab a pair of binoculars, get away from the confusion of the urban lights and go find the comet. Stare at it. Revel in its majesty. View it against the backdrop of a starry ski and realize how vast the universe is and how very fortunate we all are to have this space, this earth, this planet …… each other. Just maybe we can each be our own comet, lighting up our little space and together, we can light up the world. Just as the comet dazzles the night sky, so too can we dazzle the world, our world.

Go be a comet!

Who Doesn’t Love a Great Fish Story

I need to start this blog with a disclaimer or two. First, as grandparent I have every right, no duty, to brag about my grand kids. Second, this blog is going to include fish stories. My disclaimer is to accurately describe my abilities as a fisherman. They don’t exist, at least not in reality. I am an impatient fisherman and one the fish don’t fear. I can cast with the best of them. I can bait a hook. I just don’t catch anything and it may be due to my impatience. No worm, cast by me, has ever stayed in the water long enough to have ever experienced drowning. That’s if worms actually drown. As soon as I have cast my line, I am reeling it in with the speed of gazelle fleeing a hungry lion. Even if the fish wanted to try the bait, they can’t move fast enough to catch it. I have repeatedly been boated back to shore by the master fisherman who was going to teach me the art of fishing, often because they do not cater to my pacing in their boat.

That said, my six year old grandson, Jackson, decided it was time I teach him to fish. Reluctantly, given my history, I agreed to try but warned him, that for the most part he was going to be on his own. I explained the art of the cast, decided we would buy a dozen night crawlers and some leeches and proceeded down to our dock. At this point, Jackson decided I could do the baiting and he would reel in the fish. I loved his optimism. If only he knew the skill set of his teacher. Enter Jackson’s three year old sister, Adela. She claimed to have no desire to catch fish, but oh how she loved the worms. Within minutes, she was providing me with the next worm while gently stroking and cooing to another as her pet. Lest you think this a fluke and that when we switched bait to leeches, she would be long gone, oh how wrong you are. Leeches fascinated her even more. She wanted to know if we could save one for her to take home as a pet. Mom was an immediate and stern NO!

But let’s get back to the fisherman. With hook baited, the cast was made and almost immediately, a bite. Sure that he would simply feed the worm to this adventurous fish, I simply said that he needed to give the line a jerk. Fish number one. Nothing to mount on the cottage walls, but he caught it and got it to the dock. Surely beginners luck. Cast number two and three came up empty and I figured he would be retiring soon. And then the surprise. Jackson, though a focused Lego builder, has never shown a great amount of patience, must have got one of his Opa’s genes. For the next half hour, he was undeterred. Cast after cast and several missed catches, Jackson continued to fish with an intensity that was border line scaring me. It dawned on me that if he ever caught a big one, we were going to need to buy a boat and hire a professional fishing guide to satisfy his lust for the sport. And then it happened, Jackson, on his own, somehow developed what the great fisherman describe as ‘the feel’. He caught three or four fish in rapid succession, each one larger than the last. Where he had been catching 4 and 5 inch crappies, he suddenly caught several 6 – 8 inch rock bass. Now he wanted the big stuff. And so I started him fishing out on the ridge, a fairly long cast beyond the confines of the dock, but he was sure the big ones were just swimming about out there waiting for Jackson to catch them.

Within two casts, he had a 10 inch small mouth bass. Two more casts and a 12 inch bass found his deftly placed hook. It was at this point that I selfishly decided it might be Adela’s choice of bait and my somehow expert mounting of that bait on the hook that was bringing this unbridled success. By this time, out of worms and fishing for the ‘big ones’, we had switched to leeches. As Jackson’s mom, aunt Kat and I were relaxing in the boat tied up to the dock, Jackson said he was good to handle things himself. We were clearly distracted, when Jackson calmly declares that he’s caught another one that he thinks is a bass and might be a bit bigger. As we turn to look, he is reeling in, with pole bent over, a large mouth bass that is measuring in at an easy 14 inches. Mom was so shocked, that she took a 30 second video of his prize without turning on the video. Jackson just offered to catch another. And he did, several more times.

In the course of two days of fishing from the dock, the score sat at Dad, 1, Opa, 0, Aunt Kat, 1, and Jackson 20! No contest. I warned you that Opas have the inherent privilege of being overly proud of their grandchildren. Now you in fact may be a fisherman reading this blog and thinking none of these fish were anything to crow about, but let’s put things in perspective. He’s SIX!, he has potentially the worst fisherman ever as his instructor and he’s coming from a family that not only doesn’t fish, they don’t even eat fish! I would say he has overcome the odds.

I am impressed to say the least and proud enough to pop the buttons on my fishing vest if I had one. And that 6 inch crappie mounted on the wall of the cottage will forever serve as testament to the day Jackson became a fisherman…….. No, I didn’t really mount the fish, but it would have been a great story.

Feeling Disconnected

In the midst of this pandemic isolation, have you found yourself feeling a bit over connected? I know how strange that must sound. After all, we have been staying quarantined, social distancing, and in general, disconnecting from each other socially. So how could I possibly feel over connected?

Through this ordeal, the one area we didn’t disconnect, was the internet. The internet, with email and social media, and then Zoom or whatever virtual meeting program you were using, has if anything, kept me electronically connected while I physically and emotionally disconnected. While I was still working, not that I ever really stopped, I often resented the fact that I was bombarded with emails and texts from clients and coworkers who could find me anywhere and everywhere. There was no escaping them. I had developed a habit, no, a calling, that made it impossible for me to not check those connections constantly. Hours, often minutes, wouldn’t go by without me checking my email and texts for that next question, request, or demand of my attention. When I finally entered my pseudo retirement phase, I concentrated on slowing that down. Hell, I had actually got to the point where I could go several hours without looking, and sometimes even pass my 24 hour rule, without replying.

And then COVID-19 dropped on us and we went into physical separation and a renewed internet connection. Our disconnect physically meant that the internet via, in my case, Zoom became the replacement. Where I had finally accomplished the art of slowing down and only agreeing to meetings in my volunteer career that fit into my schedule, I was now at the mercy of the internet meeting. During my first trip up North, don’t worry, we were quarantining in our cottage, my schedule was peppered with Zoom meetings with co-volunteers, committee meetings and client sessions. In a normal time, I would have just said no. I know some of you who know me well, are snickering, but I had actually begun to to use the word. But, and it’s a big but, these were and still are, not normal times. COVID-19 was not only isolating us individually, it was shutting down businesses and my retirement career has been helping small businesses find their way.

My requests for assistance ramped up exponentially, and with it, my inability to stay away from that electronic connection. I was back in my old rut. If you needed me, I was accessible 24 -7. Schedules didn’t matter. I would get the Zoom meeting request, time and link and I had to try to pretend I hadn’t seen it. Something had to give. Enter my family for an electronic intervention. I was asked, point blank, if I was enjoying my volunteering? I reminded them that it gave me a sense of purpose and that I enjoyed being able to help clients navigate the business start-up environment. So they asked, why was I so stressed and at times so apparently angry? I had no answer. I subconsciously wasn’t hearing myself complain. It seems while I thought I was learning to use the word no, I was not saying no to the right requests. I had somehow gone from mentoring my clients, to agreeing to two committee chair positions and membership in a third. This, not my client requests, was the cause of all those emails and Zoom meeting demands. I was over connected and all to the wrong purpose fulfilling activities.

I am on my second trip North to our cottage, but it will be different this time. We are still hiding in isolation and social distancing if we have to venture out, but I stepped away from those committee obligations, well at least one, and have a week without work. I left an ominous away message on my email account and refused all requests for Zoom meetings. If I have a Zoom session this week, it will be because I chose it and it will be to socialize with friends I am missing physically. I am finally feeling disconnected.

I will continue to miss the physical interaction and if and when this pandemic lifts, I will be the first one out socializing with friends and even strangers. But going forward, I am definitely focusing more energy on disconnecting from the demand side of this electronic hook. I will use the internet to enjoy the connections I choose and avoid the temptation to be on call 24-7. I will enjoy the moments I feel disconnected and savor the moments to reconnect to life and the things that truly matter.

What’s in the Title

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and millions of dads will be honored by their children. I will hopefully be one of those receiving at least a few accolades. Before you think me boastful, my daughters will also remind me of my nerdyness and my insufferable habit of telling corny jokes. But, that is in part what dads do. It is expected of them. I for one, am committed to not letting them down.

But let’s look at the true picture. Fathers become fathers via the birth of their children, but not all fathers become dads. A father becomes a dad the day he takes responsibility for the child he now must rear. A dad is the man who weeps with his child when he or she is in pain. A dad is the man, who stands strong when his child needs support. He is their defender and champion. A dad is the person who tells their mother not to worry because their daughter is strong enough to care for herself but secretly worries each time she goes out. He is the protector, the fixer and the knight in shining armor. A dad knows his children are watching him even if he thinks they aren’t looking. In short, he tries to be perfect even though he knows that at times he will stumble.

A father is the easy job. He doesn’t need to be patient. He doesn’t need to be perfect. He just earns the title by a simple act. But a dad is a dad by virtue of all the hard stuff. All the sleepless nights worrying about his daughter on her first, second, third and every date she ever goes on. He teaches his son respect and the meaning of the word no. A dad holds onto their bike and promises not to let go as they learn to ride, and then turns over the keys to his child as a new driver and forgives the moment they scratch the car. A dad must anticipate their needs, react with support and be there every step of the way. A dad celebrates his children’s success and then humbly credits them with their effort. He will wish to be center stage, all the while knowing the stage belongs to his child.

Tomorrow, if he is still alive, hug your dad. Tell him you noticed each time he was there. Thank him for caring, for sharing and for above all, his undying admiration of you. Forgive him his imperfections and honor him for his efforts. And above all, tell him he matters and then show him he is loved.

Happy Dad’s Day…..job well done.

I Should Know Better……

This has been a historic time for all of us. First we are subjected to a pandemic. Isolation, quarantine and new normal are all we can talk about. Every night we are bombarded on the evening news with the daily statistics and every story leads right back to the pandemic. We try to escape it through social media with creative ideas and clever stories of how we are spending our quarantine time. These social media efforts are at least humorous and help us to relieve the stress but the reality lies thinly hidden behind those clever posts and tweets.

And then the next shoe drops. Through the unfathomable decision by one individual, the ugly reality of racism is thrown in the mix. The reaction is predictable but the scope still takes us all by surprise. But it shouldn’t have. We have spent lifetimes trying first to justify it, then denying it and eventually pretending to not accept racism. While there are those who openly demonstrate their bigotry, the majority of people falsely believe, that though it exists, it certainly doesn’t exist in them. We desperately want to believe that we not only have no biases, but that we are supportive and have worked to reduce the effects of racism in our culture. And yet???? Why do we still unconsciously stereotype black people?

I am one of those and feel the need to confess. Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe in equality among all humans, no matter race, gender or religion. And yet, I was reminded just the other day that I am not so innocent. We were watching a show focused on Black Lives Matter. One of the segments was an interview of a black pro athlete who was speaking of a program designed to answer the ‘uncomfortable questions’. As the interview proceeded, I turned to my wife and said “He certainly is articulate.” I was immediately called out by my daughter. “Why would I have felt he wouldn’t be”, she asked? Because he was a football player? Or was it because he was black? Or worse yet, because he was a black athlete? My first response was to quantify what I had said. But as I began to formulate my excuse, the reality of the situation hit me. That and the fact that I was not the politically correct, unbiased supportive person I wanted to believe I was. I started hearing myself saying “I have several black friends.” Why did I need to attach the adjective?

We all see and recognize the racism when it is blatant. We all wonder how anyone can feel that way? Some of us even take up the charge and march alongside other supporters as they protest the total inequity of the treatment. But change won’t take place if we simply succeed in silencing the racists, a task that is anything but simple. Change needs to be systemic. We need to look at ourselves and ask how can I drop the stereotyping and change the narrative. In many ways, it is the day to day narrative, the unintentional stereotyping and the acceptance of the black person’s plight that cuts the deepest and creates the environment we so desperately need to repair. Why go out of our way to identify someone as my black friend, or a black athlete or a black titan of industry. Why can’t we simply drop the adjective and acknowledge the individual for who they are and not what they are. Until we do that, we continue to give room for the racist to breathe their message of hate and for society to fail at honoring our Declaration of Independence, “All men (people) are created equal.” But not until we treat them as such.

Half Dome ……The Conclusion

Part Eight: Kathryn and I had been on top no more than ten minutes, when there was John coming off the cables and over the crest. True to my daughter’s character, once she and John had returned to the saddle, Bailey told him he needed to finish. In fact she INSISTED that he go back up.

They say it’s not the destination but the journey that matters. We spent the next half hour exploring the dome and savoring the view but it really was the journey that we were savoring. We had put forth a great deal of effort and determination to get where we were, and in reality, that was the accomplishment we were proud of. Don’t misunderstand me, the view was worth the climb, but the climb was worth the effort.

Half dome beak

It was still relatively early, but even so, we couldn’t spend a lot of time on top. Besides the fact that the cables were now becoming congested, we wanted to complete the Half Dome challenge of up and back in 12 hours or less. Since we had hit the trailhead at 4:00 am, we wanted to be back down no later than 4:00 pm. It was almost noon, so we knew we needed to start back down the cables.

The descent down the cables was almost as difficult as the climb up. The cable route was now jammed with people and the progress was slow as we would be forced to squeeze alongside and then slide around one climber after another. At one point, we reached a women, frozen with fear, unable to go up or back down. We had to ease ourselves around her and with some encouragement, eventually helped her to start moving back up. With effort, we got back down to the saddle and after a quick snack and unfortunately, the last of our water, headed back for the return trail.

We had been back on the downslope trail for about an hour, aching knees, hot and thirsty. The next area where we would be able to get water would be back down in Little Yosemite Valley. There we could filter some water from the Merced River. We had been deliberate about keeping our backpacks light, that meant only what we needed to carry. Bailey figured it out. She knew John well enough to know he would not have been able to resist his one weakness, Mountain Dew. We relished those 16 ounces between us and Bailey quickly forgave John his crime of smuggling. By the time we reached the Merced, we death marched straight through some poor campers’ site just to reach the river as quickly as possible. No drink ever tasted as great as the water did at that point.

Refreshed, we soon reached the top of Nevada Falls and with another hour of hiking, finally reached the trailhead. The time, just before 4:00 pm. We had done it, 17 miles, nearly a mile of elevation and all within 12 hours. We had intended to walk the remaining mile back to camp and to then treat ourselves to ice cold drinks, pizza and ice cream. The reality, we took the first shuttle back to camp and collapsed on our cots. Kathryn said it best, as great as the adventure had been, we were so spent that she was sure we would never do that again…… It wasn’t a week later, the pain and fatigue behind us, and she was asking when would we consider a repeat. Fortunately memories of pain fade quickly but great adventures create memories that last.

Half Dome 2

Epilog: I always wanted to do a piece like this, so I took the editorial freedom and wrote it. I want to dedicate the retelling of this story to several people who made it possible.

First would be my sister Kay. Without her to have shown me Yosemite that very first time, I may never had gotten the urge to do the climb. My second dedication, would be to my brother-in-law Horst. We would not have been as prepared as we were if it hadn’t been for his help. Without his encouragement and planning, we might never have accomplished it. I only wish Horst were still here to have read the recounting of that adventure.

Finally, I want to dedicate this to my daughters, Bailey and Kathryn. They have always been my inspiration for creating and pursuing adventures. With their interest and energy, this one became a reality. With their encouragement, my retelling of it. They have kept me young and adventuresome every time I thought of growing old. It is for them that I tell the stories, so that one day they will share new adventures with my grandchildren and tell the stories of the adventures they shared with me.

Half dome 1

Thanks for taking the time to read this…..now go find your peak to climb.

Half Dome …… Pressing On

Part Seven: This next part of the story is the most difficult for me to tell. We had already hiked over eight miles, climbed over 4000 feet and been at it for going on eight hours. As much as it took courage to climb this last 1000 feet, clinging to a one inch cable at almost vertical, it took more courage to know you had to call it quits. That to ignore the vertigo gripping you, at this height, would not only be a bad decision but a dangerous one. To this day, I am as proud of Bailey for turning back as I was for Kathryn struggling on.

As Bailey asked to be let down, I had to make a decision. We still had Kathryn hanging above us needing help. Fortunately, I caught John’s eyes and without a single word spoken, he let me know he was going to go back down with Bailey and that I needed to go up to release Kathryn’s carabiner. We were a true team at that point, willing to make decisions as a team and not as individuals. The move was tricky, but Bailey eased down alongside as I climbed up past. I scrambled up the space between us and reached Kathryn about thirty feet above. We were both disappointed but we climbed on.

Kathryn and I were now about three quarters of the way to the summit and still hanging at nearly vertical, when our third issue arose. As I was looking straight up at Kathryn some 20 feet above me, I saw her boot lace dangling as her boot had become untied. Fearing she would lose the boot or catch the lace under it as she climbed, I knew I had to get her to stop and somehow tie her boot. Kathryn pulled a maneuver I still see in my minds eye. She swung around, sat down on a small 2×4 stretched on the rock between the stanchions on her left and right, and reached down to retie her boot. To do this, she had unclipped and was now looking down between her knees at her feet and not coincidentally at the great void stretching out below us.

Horst had warned us of the effect of dehydration. He used the term “talking like a doughboy” and Kathryn was definitely sounding like a doughboy as she told me she thought she was going to throw up. Interestingly, it would be throwing down not up and on me. I scrambled up to her position, grab water and a candy bar from my pack and made her eat and drink. I could only hope this would help her. After about five minutes, I had my answer. She regained her color, turned around, grabbed the cables above her and started to climb.

We were now with in striking distance of the summit and the slope was coming down to a reasonable angle. As we walked the remaining distance to the crest, Kathryn turned to me and said “I’ll never call you an old man again. My response, “Of course you will, but thanks for the sentiment.” We had made it. We were on the summit of Half Dome! We had reached the top and our sense of accomplishment was unbounded. I will admit, there was still that reverse back down the cables to be dealt with, but for now, we were celebrating.

To be Continued ………….