Types of memory

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End of the Stony Man trail, Shenandoah National Park, November 27, 2015

In the Facebook version of this day, which is one valid version, we went to Shenandoah National Park, claimed our year-long Every Kid In a Park pass (thanks to Young J being a fourth grader this year, when the program was created), and hiked to the end of this trail. A stray Lego person had hitchhiked a ride with us, so we also documented with photos his own parallel adventure.

In the warts and periods and all version I post here – none of the pics of the kids, all of the angst. Or maybe just some of it. After all, given the couple of weeks I have had, it was certainly exhilarating to find myself in a spot where I was able to take a photo like the one above. I was happy to have made it, as I was happy to have made it to a much higher elevation, back in June, after the same surgery trajectory.

But when we got to the rocks, my exhilaration turned pretty quickly to fear. I was suddenly unsure on my feet, of my feet, my polarized sunglasses were making it difficult to see, the backpack I carried was throwing off my balance, and there were muddy patches here and there among the rocks. The boys scrambled across the rocks like little goats. But they are no goats, and there was no guardrail, and within a few short minutes I had sat down on a rock and started freaking out that the boys were going to fall off.

So there you go – nature vérité. Steroids + brain surgery + a rocky peak with inexperienced climbers + knowing they zapped close to where a blood vessel is that supplies the foot? I didn’t stand a chance, really, to have anything approximating a normal time at the summit.

When I was climbing back down as we were leaving, I let myself slide and stumbled and finally collapsed in J’s arms, sobbing – in part, relief that none of us fell off that rocky place, but in larger part, sobbing for what I manage to become in just a couple short weeks of renewed medical drama: strident, dependent, unsure, lacking any confidence. I know I have been here before and come out of it. I know I may be here again. So all there is to do, really, is own it.

To make up for it, we did see a black bear in a tree. From a safe distance, from our car. So thanks, nature, for offering us our first bear sighting in the wild, as recompense for scaring the shit out of me earlier that afternoon. I’ll try to keep the comfort of a nearly-hibernating bear being watched and cheered on (and not shot at) with me now, as I attempt to sleep.

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