On Saturday, May 15, I was just 5 minutes away from leaving for our first TNT group hike when the phone rang. It was my brother Peter, telling me that our father had died early that morning. The news was not unexpected. Dad had had a heart attack a few weeks before and just hadn’t been able to bounce back. At age 88 that’s not surprising. Up until a few days before, though, I had still hoped I would be able to see him on the trip I had planned for right after school was finished. (I am a teacher.) Now I would have to make some decisions about that trip, but the first decision was whether or not to go on this hike. By the time I got off the phone with my brother I was running late for our rendezvous. Did I really want to go hiking with a group of people I hardly knew just after hearing news like this? On the other hand, I really wanted to be an active part of this hiking group, and I already knew I would miss the following week. Besides, going on a hike was such a fitting way to remember my father, who had in his lifetime invented the ubiquitous spring-loaded drawstring clamp and a variety of other innovations in climbing, skiing, and backpacking gear. Half the families in our country hauled a few generations of kids around the malls and hiking trails in a Gerry Kiddie Carrier, and my father was that Gerry.
So I decided to go. I grabbed a few last-minute things, including the wrong kind of shoes for the muddy hike I was about to experience, and drove off. I had to call partway there to let Zoe, our hiking coach, know that I would be a few minutes late, and why. I finally pulled into the parking lot and joined the group. My decision to go on the hike turned out to be the right one. What a great group of people. Everyone was friendly, sympathetic, and willing to listen to stories about growing up with Gerry. Being able to remember and share in the context of the natural world helped me gather strength for the week ahead.
After hearing that my brother David would arrive at our family home on Wednesday, I decided to continue teaching through Friday, our last student contact day, and leave for Arizona right after school on Friday, taking off the last week of school, which for me would be mostly meetings. That way I could stay ten days before returning to teach summer school. After accomplishing the nearly impossible task of wrapping up my school year in one week instead of two, I drove to Arizona. My brothers and I have been talking and sorting and sharing ever since. As I delve into the boxes and boxes of writing, letters, and documentation of my parents’ lives that I am hauling back to Colorado I will be sharing some of that with you, my readers. I guarantee it will be an interesting story.