Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finding the Summit

It's been a while. Since I wrote anything of substance. Right? It seems that there was a period of time that I was learning alot and processing through a ton and also being very up front about it. And I think I've recently moved into a stage where I've been a little more reserved about sharing what I'm learning and processing. Well, maybe I should revisit what all has been going on. It's not bad. Really, this blog started as a journal. This blog isn't really for anyone else but me. The fact that it's open to friends and family and the general population of the world sometimes slips by me. And then I'll come across someone who mentioned that they had read my writing. It shouldn't be a shock. But it is. Strangely enough. I like it though. Keeps me on my toes.

Well, I'm going to write a bit more. And I think I'll start with my recent journey to the top of Long's Peak. And the discovery of a CD that Robert made for my 28th birthday. I realized a month or so ago that I was having a very hard time processing through the loss of my dear friend and love who passed away January 25. I would get emotional when I thought of him. I'm upset that God threw such a curveball. Rob and I were good together and it was a nasty turn of events that sent us tumbling to our demise. I've talked about this before - grateful that we came to reconcile our friendship and that we got to spend his last summer together getting out to enjoy music in the park and to have dinner... to eat giant ice cream sundaes.

I think I needed to do something monumental to celebrate his life. I realized, quite sensibly, that there was no place on the entire earth that I could go that I would be able to find him. He was gone. And you would think, of course. That makes sense. But when you lose someone close to you, that is insane to even fathom. That even if you TRIED to find him, you simply couldn't. I remembered his crazy tales of getting to the top of Long's Peak with Steve. How they set up their tent but the wind tore it away from them into the night and they were forced to sleep under the stars in freezing weather at 12,000 feet. I loved that story. And I wanted to be there. To see the ridge they camped on and to summit the same beloved peak that gave Rob so much joy.

So I headed out with Eric and Erica this last Friday, July 10th. We were at the trailhead at 3:30am. We walked for a few hours in the dark and as we got up above treeline, the sun began to peek over the horizon. It cast red light all across The Diamond. And it shone off the water seeping through the tundra. We could see a herd of elk grazing below and the monumental 3,000 feet of elevation that we had yet to gain. So we pressed on past the boulder field and through the Keyhole. Across the traverse on the back side and up the Trough, another field of boulders at a nearly 35 degree slope. I counted down the remaining red and yellow targets as we crested this challenging portion of the trail. Sky! And yet, the climb was not yet over. We wrapped around the corner and again traversed, this time across the front side - a portion called the Narrows. It's a fitting name. It is essentially a sidewalk across the sheer face of Long's Peak. A misstep would cause you to tumble over 1,000 feet. Finally we arrive at the Home Stretch. 450 feet of rock at about 45 degrees. Difficult to say the least. But we finally arrived at the top.

On the way up, I thought of all the stories I remembered of Rob. His awesome secret ingredient chili, the joy he had filtering through his gear, standing naked in the snow to eat his breakfast in Moab, the Ghost Cow, eating sweet tangerines in the park in Crested Butte, learning to ride clipless pedals in Moab, Fran shattering our front window in the place we lived in Gunny, his proposal, our toilet paper break up... so many things to remember. And then shortly after we were married, making jokes with the nurses in the cancer clinic, living in the hospital for the first month after his surgery, the Rocky Mountain Cancer Clinic 5K, learning to be a nurse, watching him 'shave' with a washcloth, trying to get him to drink Boost and to eat those Angel Heart meals, waking up 20 minutes earlier so that we could get him up the stairs in time, him calling me 'sweetie' for a series of months because he couldn't remember my name. And then there was Castle Rock and the Colorado Springs apartment, getting Maddox, all these great memories.

Well, at the top of Long's, I pulled out a dried bouquet of our wedding flowers. I found a spot to leave them and tucked them under a rock. I told him that I missed him and that I hope he could see me. I wanted him to know that I came up there to see him. It was the only place on earth that I knew I could go to do that. I told him I loved him. After a quick re-energizing, we headed back down.

Every step down seemed three times as difficult as each step up. It soon became painful and we were all exhausted. We finally got to the base of the Boulder Field. The three miles at the top are some of the most difficult terrain I've ever encountered. Yet, there was still 4.5 miles of trail to conquer. It didn't seem like much after what we just came down. But that 4.5 miles stretched into what seemed like ten. Treeline seemed so far away and even after crossing the brook, the last 1.5 miles never ended. When I got to the sign that said .5 miles left, I was so exhausted I knew I could only do it if I ran the last portion. I couldn't be on that trail any longer than I had to be. When I got to the parking lot, I threw my bag down, stripped off my shirts and laid there for a few minutes.

I laid there thinking of everything that Rob had to endure in his sickness. I realized he had no road signs saying how much more there was left. No treeline and no brook crossing to let him know it was almost done. He endured day in and day out through terrible pain and discomfort. Through swelling and loss of movement in his extremities.

On the way home, I put in a CD that he had made me for my 28th birthday - shortly before our divorce was final. The car I had before wouldn't play this CD and neither would my computer. So I didn't expect it to play. But it did. Rob had told me that this was a collection of songs he liked. They didn't necessarily mean anything. But as I listened to the entire disk, I felt like he wanted to tell me that through it all, he still loved me and wanted me back. It was very difficult to listen to. It was the music that he loved that signified importance to him. It tore me up. I drove back with tears pouring from my eyes, limbs aching.

There is no going back and changing anything. I know that. So what is it to me now? What does all of it mean? It means to me that he loved me more than anything and that our relationship was worth it to him. Worth it to fight for. He left the world without disdain or hatred for anything that had transpired between us. That is comforting. I wish, of course, that I had been more aware and that I hadn't become someone different in the middle of all of it. I know that in the future if God ever brings me anyone to love again that I will have a strength of character that I didn't have before that will allow me to persevere and love in the midst of trouble. I know that it's worth it. Rob taught me so much.

Thank you, Rob. I love you and I miss you every day.

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