Sunday, April 10, 2016

Memories VI: Sit Up So I Can Slap You

Back in 2010, I set off with Aaron McMillan to climb The Prow, a classic 12-pitch aid climb, "spectacularly steep and exposed", on the Washington Column on the north side of Yosemite Valley.  I was leading a bit less than half way up when the piece of gear I was moving up onto pulled out, sending me on a thrilling midair ride...
...that ended with an awkward impact with the wall and a broken ankle. After an operation, a few days in hospital, a few more days with Aaron's wonderfully welcoming family, and a red-eye flight back from the Bay Area, I arrived home on crutches in the mid-morning.  It was a weekday, so Miriam was away at school.

Liane brought me home, helped me get something to eat, and settled me on the couch - my instructions were to keep the leg elevated as much as possible.   I read a book, drank some tea no doubt, and then the expected thing happened after a red-eye; I dozed off.

I returned to consciousness with the sound of the front door opening.  Miriam back from school.   Footsteps approaching... but my eyes were still half-closed.  And then, a familiar and much-loved voice, now in tones of loving exasperation:

Sit up so I can slap you!

You see, at that point of our lives Miriam felt it was her calling to protect me from rash choices, especially in the rock-climbing arena.  In that phrase I heard a bit of Why didn't you listen to me?, yes, but behind it a deep layer of I'm glad you're home and I love you forever.  I have never forgotten that moment.

2010 was a year of many upheavals: the year my father passed away, the year Miriam began to be open with us about her sexuality and gender identity; but these were all in the future at the time of that half-joking affirmation of love.

More recently, it was I and Liane who felt the calling to protect Miriam/Eli.  As we struggled to help him resist the urge to self-harm - an urge which he wrote about extensively, which he recognized as coming from "outside" in some sense, and to which he ultimately succumbed - there was surely more than a bit of why didn't you listen?  But that was always founded on We're glad you are home and We love you forever.  How could it be otherwise?

When I saw Miriam/Eli for the last time in the funeral home, this is what I longed to say.

Sit up so I can slap you!

That is not a prayer that is granted in this life; we have to say goodbye. But perhaps at the end of days, when the Angel of the Resurrection blows the trumpet, Eli and I and my father and all of us will hear the voice of God saying

Sit up so I can slap you!

I imagine that voice will contain more than a bit of why didn't you listen? But deeper and stronger and more enduring will be I am glad you are home and I love you forever.  "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Enclosed in that love, Eli and I and my father and all of us will live. We will meet again.

How could it be otherwise?

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