Thursday, June 30

A bit of peace

I watched something tonight that brought me an unexpected amount of peace about the loss of Dad.

I watched a film I'd never heard of before called The Wildest Dream.

You can read the description for yourself at the link above but it begins with the discovery of George Mallory's body, on Everest, 75 years after he went missing. His remains proved that he suffered a compound fracture in his leg... a fatal accident when on Everest. I started to get uncomfortable as the story unfolded but kept watching despite several similarities between Mallory's accident and Dad's. I even watched as one climber slips and almost falls 7000 feet. When his partner asks if he's ok the climber replies "I'm fine. Just a bad step." which is what I've always believed killed Dad... just one bad step.

Ultimately the man who discovered Mallory's body decided to try to summit Everest with the clothing and gear Mallory used. He hoped to learn for himself if it was even possible. While suiting up in replica clothing and showing it off to his family, his wife turned to their youngest son and asked "Would you wear that to climb Everest?" The boys replied "No". The mother prods "What would you wear?" he deadpanned "I wouldn't climb Everest."

It was like watching a conversation I had a more than once with my Dad. When I finished reading Into Thin Air I immediately handed it to my Dad and told him he should read it. He did. Soon after, I learned that we completely disagreed with the idea of a father making such a dangerous trek. I argued that climbing Everest was irresponsible especially for a father of young kids. "Why would anybody DO THAT?! Why would anyone dream of dragging themselves through delirium to a place called THE DEATH ZONE?" I asked. Dad calmly explained that he completely understood the urge to do so despite the risks. He said he didn't necessarily dream of climbing Mount Everest but, for instance, he'd always wanted to visit Antarctica to see Emperor Penguins. Great. He wanted to go to Columbia too but Mom and I flat out told him no way. I sometimes wonder if he snuck over there and just didn't tell us. I should check his passport. Anyway, we argued about crazy travel several times. In the end I came to realize that whatever it is that pushes people to take those kinds of freaky, unnecessary risks, I simply do not posses. It's just nothing I've ever been interested in participating in. I love to READ about those people but have never wanted to experience any of their antics first hand.

Watching the film tonight somehow made me feel a little better about the way we lost Dad. Daddy knew the risks in his job and his hiking but he felt compelled to do it regardless. I believe he planned to hike and climb until he couldn't anymore and that's exactly what he did. I told Mom about this little revelation and she agreed. Mom and I don't have that risk taking compulsion in our make up but Daddy did and we always knew it. Mom said that one of Dad's uncles was a National Geographic interpreter... who knew?! Maybe being so in love with nature and the world around us and the uncontrollable need to explore and protect it is inherited. All I know is that I dodged that gene and I'm glad. It wouldn't be fair for Mom to have to worry about me too.

I know that Dad's death was very different than a famous explorer's but the obsession and compulsion that drove them was very similar. I'll never stop missing my Dad but I'm glad he had such a great wonder of nature in his life. I never liked the risks Dad took but I remain incredibly proud of him. He left such a wonderful mark on the world. Do I think the risks were worth it? No, but I think Daddy would disagree with me just like he did so many times before.

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