Take My Hand

The tide has turned.

I held his hand while crossing streets and dragging him into Mother’s Day Out and later kindergarten. I boosted him up to slurp from the water fountain and peer into the meteorite display at the bug museum. Later he would just need to stand on my foot so he could reach those things. I hoisted him up into swings or onto the monkey bars and stood below in case his arms got tired and he needed a safe landing. At 24 he doesn’t need those things anymore. It’s a good thing, because there is no way I could offer them.

But I wasn’t quite ready to need those things from him. Or anyone, I guess.

Admitting to weakness is not my strong point. I have been attempting to work out for the last few years with the hope of staving off the inevitability of the aging process with marginal success. I have been waylaid for months now by trochanteric bursitis due to an inflamed IT band, and for good measure a bout of plantar fasciitis. It sounds worse than it is, but not by much.

Last week, Doug and I drove to Canyon, Texas, to meet our 24-year- old and his girlfriend and to do a little light hiking in Palo Duro Canyon State Park after their morning escapades on mountain bikes. The Lighthouse is the signature formation of the canyon. The hike in and out to the Lighthouse is about 6 miles and marked as “Easy”, which was right up my betraying body’s alley. The trail is fairly wide and for the most part easily traversed, despite erosion along the way that renders most trail surfaces uneven.

When you get to the official trail end, you are afforded a not so well-marked invitation to the mesa that hosts the formation. It is mostly shifting sands and loose rocks. And it is steep. At a fork in the trail, our first hunch proved to be wrong, ascertained only after my sit-down strike prompted a scouting expedition by the two young whippersnappers. I remained perched precariously, contemplating which of the terrible options was most terrifying – continuing up the steep incline or sliding all the way back down – or at least until I landed with a thud, hitting my head on a sharp rock. They reported back: We should have gone right. So much for the road less traveled, I thought. Thanks a lot, Robert Frost. And so, I mostly slid and scooted back down the makeshift trail, collected my wits and my stomach and began to climb up the proper route. I had to simply take their word it was the correct trail because there was absolutely no evidence in my opinion to substantiate such a claim. The right fork seemed equally formidable and I felt just as inadequate.

My son is a rock climber, when he isn’t riding bikes, and a pretty good one. He is strong, confident and sure-footed. I was happy he was nearby, although I was unsure whether following in his steps or having him behind me was more assuring. He led the expedition most of the time, and on multiple occasions he turned and lent me his strong arm to grip and pull myself up. Even with that help, I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. I apologized for my weak, ill-functioning body each time I needed a boost or a break, and a couple of times I was moved to tears. I am still not certain if their source was humility, frustration, appreciation, or just plain embarrassment at my weakness.

We all need a strong arm to lean on now and then.

We all need boosts and breaks from time to time.

And sometimes we need those boosts from those we have nurtured and mentored and guided.

And that is not weakness.