Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When I Get Older, Will I Be Bolder

when I'm sixty-two.

Trail Ridge Road up above timberline

My husband and I spent a long weekend up in Hot Sulfur Springs visiting friends.  We drove though Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road both ways. It has been such a long time since I've driven over Trail Ridge I had forgotten how beautiful the Park is with all the green plants, trees and grasses. Being there was soul nourishing.

Heading into the park we were surprised by the twenty dollars entrance fee but found out that twenty dollars covered 7 days in the park so we would be able to use our receipt to come back through the park on our way home without having to pay another twenty dollars. Ten dollars each way seemed very reasonable to me.  Along with our receipt the park ranger handed us an informational Park newspaper and I skimmed it as my husband drove along.  This is where I discovered that for ten dollars each we could have picked up two lifetime America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Passes as  my husband turned 62 last October and I turned 62 last month.  We both wondered why the park ranger had not mentioned the passes to us so we stopped at the entrance at the other side of the park on our way out.  The ranger there said we both looked too young to be sixty-two and that they were taught never to ask people if they wanted the passes because some people got very upset if offered the pass when they were still too young to receive one.  She then offered to exchange our seven day receipt for two passes and we gratefully accepted.

 I was very excited about getting the pass.  Free entry to any National Park for the rest of my life! Then I held the pass in my hand and saw the words Senior Pass written across the top of it.  For a second I was insulted.  I'm not a senior citizen! But of course I was or I wouldn't be holding the pass in my hand.  It wasn't being 62 that bothered me, it was having a piece of plastic officially announce to the world that in our society I was now considered old. Then I got excited again about having a pass that let me visit any National Park in the country for the rest of my life at no charge.  What a deal!

On the way back from visiting our friends I proudly showed my pass as we entered the Park and laughed when the ranger who checked my pass and I.D. turned out to be the person who gave us the pass in the first place.   It was raining when we entered the Park and I could see low clouds hugging  the mountain tops as I slowly followed the twisting road upward.   Right about where the Timber Lake Trailhead is I drove into the clouds. They were thin at that point but as I drove higher they got thicker and by the time I reached the Alpine Center at the top of the road I was driving in fog so thick I could only see about 15 feet in front of me.  Plus we were so high (12,183 feet at the highest point)  the fog was blinding white.   I was terrified, even more terrified then when I parachuted out of the airplane.

My husband asked several times if I wanted to pull over so he could drive but I said no.  I did not want to stop, first,  because I could not see the pull outs and parking lots until I was right on top of them,  and second, there were cars behind me and I did not want my car to get rear-ended if I did try to stop. I slowly made my way through the fog traveling between 10 and 20 mph and concentrating on staying between the double yellow lines to my left and the white line showing the road edge to the right. The right edge scared me the most.  Most of the time there was no wall along the edge of the road but only an endless empty space created by the thick fog.  Knowing I could drive off the road and into that emptiness if I wasn't careful frightened me the most.

Finally, finally it was over.   We left the fog behind and my heart rate slowly returned to normal.  I berated my self for not stopping whenever I had a change.  Lots of cars had pulled over and it was clear enough up near the Alpine Center for me to see the parking lot.  I could have slowed down and pull in if I had wanted to do so but instead I kept driving.   Why did I not stop?  Then I realized it was all about facing the fear.  At one point up there in the white fog I flashed back to the night my father tried to kill my mother.

I was thirteen.  It was late at night and my siblings and I were in bed.  One second I was deep asleep and the next I was wide awake with my heat racing and my body frozen in fear.  Something had woken me but I wasn't sure what.  Then I heard the sound of a hand striking flesh and knew it was caused  my father slapping my mother.   I threw the covers back and crawled to the end of my bed where I could look out my bedroom door and down the hallway into the living room. The hallway was dark and the lamp on the table next to the couch where my mother sat illuminated the section of the living room that I could see like a stage.  She was  sitting with her feet tuck under her and hands in her lap while my father crouched down in front of her.  He was talking softly and every few seconds he would reach up and give  my mother a quick sharp blow to the face.  My mother remained completely still  as each blow landed.  She had a look of resignation on her face; as if she knew that if she did not react my father would get bored and stop.

Then her face changed and her eyes opened wide in fear.  She saw something in my father's face that caused her to scream out his name while her body tried to back away from him.   My father lunged  up out of his crouch and grabbed my mother around the neck with both hands, pulling her up out of her sitting position and over the back of the couch.  Her body reacted like a rag doll.  Her right arm went flying and  her right hand hit the lamp on the table next to her with enough force to knock it over with a loud crash.   I screamed and scrambled back under the covers of my bed and pulled them over my head.  My mind was so overwhelmed by fear it contained nothing but a bright white light. I just wanted to sleep. Then I heard my mother's voice coming from the foot of my bed. In a leaden tone she said, "He wants you."    

At this point I dissociated from my body and watched myself as I followed my mother back into the living room to sit in a chair as far away from my father as I could get.  My mother sat back down on the couch and the game started again.  My father would speak softly and then reach out to strike my mother, only now he would turn to to me and say, "You wanted to see this."

After a bit my father got up to got to the bathroom.  When he left my mother and I did not move or speak as we listened to him walk down the hallway and then close the bathroom door.   There was a knock at our apartment door.  It was the police and when my father came back into the living room they took him away.

So, here I was 49 years later surrounded by the white light of fear and in a position where I could not disassociate or fall asleep to get away from it.  I had to control my fear and not let it get the best of me and I did so. And in doing so I learned that you don't overcome fear, you work through it.  I have become bolder.

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