My son Charlie is braver than I’ll ever be which, of course, is the way the universe needs to work. Thus, we’ve formulated kind of a silent pact, which we seem to have mastered quite nicely: He never mocks my cowardice. I, in turn, try not to let him catch me holding my breath when he heads off on his hiking adventures. Not that I have any reason to worry, of course (OK, I do; click here for why my heart tends towards palpitations).
Early, early, early on a recent Saturday morning, he and three friends set out on a hike called the Mummy Marathon — 20 miles and seven peaks in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. (Charlie somehow neglected to mention the hike’s other name: Mummy Kill.) He rented spikes for ice, took two box lunches, plenty of protein bars and his usual generous supply of water.
“Let me know when you’re finished,” I said in what I hoped was a light tone. “I won’t start worrying till 8 p.m., which will be 7 your time.” (Plan your phone call accordingly, in other words).
He called about 5. He and his friends made it to the summits of five peaks before a hailstorm hit. It showed no signs of letting up, so they descended whatever mountain they were on (I’d have to check my notes, which I took when he first told me about this). He was a little disappointed, but more excited about being able to add more trail tags to his collection and for the 45,000 steps the trek entailed.
The group was getting ready to eat dinner, he told me. Then he added, almost as an afterthought, “Oh, and Mom, I may need to go to the ER.”
“Oh, OK, honey. ‘Bye!” I did not say. But I really did stay calm, even when he sent me this photo, which I think is shown plenty big right here:
I put into use my anti-fainting technique, took a deep breath and an even deeper gulp of wine (mercifully close by), and agreed that yes, after splitting open one’s head on a protruding rock, a visit to the emergency room was probably a good choice.
He went, accompanied by one of his loyal friends, and the doctor on duty closed the wound with three staples. By morning — let me add here that I never cease to be amazed at the body’s inherent healing power — it looked like this:
Charlie was given the go-ahead to hike, to shower, to do just about anything except submerge his head in a swimming pool — which he had no plans to do anyway. He also couldn’t shave his head, which drove him crazy until the stitches were removed a week later and he could be his happy, all-but-bald self again.
Charlie’s next hike is coming up in five days. It’s about as long as this one, with its own invigorating dangers and heart-pounding possibilities. He can hardly wait. In a way, I’m kinda tickled to be able to say…neither can I.
So for courage beyond my realm; for friendships honed in the mountains; for 45,000 steps and three staples in the head…The Grateful Runner says thank you.