One can only imagine that my mother was rather annoyed when he showed up at her hospital bed sometime after supper. When she inquired as to where the hell he’d been, he told her that my name was now inscribed at the top of Mount Glasgow.
She shouldn’t have been surprised considering that for their first year anniversary he’d given her an ice axe.
Growing up, the room across the hall from my bedroom was a maze of climbing ropes, ski poles and bike tires.
I would say that the mountains were my father’s second home, but I think it would be more accurate to say that when it came to his love of the great outdoors, everything else came second.
As a kid, he did his best to instill the spirit of the wild within my sister and I. We spent our weekend under the stars, scrambling up rock faces and racing down ski hills.
I was always afraid I was going to tumble off the side of every cliff.
And if not that, it was almost inevitable that I’d be mauled to death by a cougar.
Needless to say, I did not inherit my dad’s adrenalin junkie genes.
I stopped going to the mountains when I realized I was never going to be the climber or the skier or the cyclist that he’d hoped I’d be.
And in that moment, I constructed imaginary boundaries of what I was capable of – and what kind of relationship we’d ever be able to have.
Of course, I didn’t realize all of this until earlier this week when I was clinging to the top of a 40 foot climbing wall and was told I had to “let go”.
As the woman on the ground below me instructed me to do so, I flashed back to all the times in my life I’ve been told to “chill out”, “take a breath”, “relax” and “let go”.
Not surprisingly, the most vivid images were of standing at the top of a bunny hill or sitting on my bicycle as a child, screaming and crying as my parents rolled their eyes and told me to just get down the bloody hill.
And in those moments, I never understood why they thought it was so amusing that I was petrified that letting go meant I was about to risk my life.
As the woman on the ground called up to me at the climbing wall, I realized that it’s been the holding on – not the letting go – that’s been slowly killing me since I was a little girl.
The holding on to all those stories, all that fear, all that shame that I wasn’t the daughter I should have been has had me stuck to the side of a cliff for years.
I didn’t mean to drag the little girl who never thought she was good enough, brave enough or strong enough into my adult life.
I just never knew how to let her go.
The other day, forty feet up a climbing wall, I fell backwards into a free fall, until the ropes caught me and brought me safely to the ground.
The other day, I let go.
All that terror I’d been holding on to wasn’t so scary after all. In fact the minute my feet were on the ground, I was itching to scramble back to the top again.
And as my arms ached and I calculated each stronghold on the makeshift wall, I dreamed about scaling mountains for real.
Maybe I am stronger and braver than I’ve given myself credit for.
Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all.