At the beginning of July, I took my parents to Wyoming as a gift for my father’s retirement at the end of May and his 75th birthday later this month. We spent a day discovering Yellowstone National Park, took a tram to the top of Rendezvous Point to view the beautiful Jackson Hole valley below, and went horseback riding in Bridger Teton National Forest.
I should also mention that on this majestic horseback ride, my horse slipped on the muddy trail and fell…and me with him. By the grace of God, I fell off in the opposite direction so I was completely unharmed, just shaken up. My father saw the whole thing from directly behind. I would describe him as traumatized. And that was in the first 10 minutes of a two-hour ride to an elevation of 2,000 feet, which he later told my mother was two hours of agony.
Poor guy. 2019 has been tough. A year full of changes with more to come — my sister got married, he retired, she is having a baby. All big adjustments, and for a man who is a creature of habit and feels best within a routine, I’m sure he feels a little bit like he keeps getting thrown off his horse.
It’s disorienting. It shakes you. It’s scary.
And I suppose I’m the one observing him from behind, panic-stricken and helpless. Sometimes you’re the one falling and sometimes you’re the one watching your loved ones fall.
My instinct is to help, to fix, to make it better. But I know I can’t. Sometimes all you can do is watch and pray it turns out ok.
It sounds a lot like being a parent, which I am not, but I get it. There’s this interesting role-reversal that happens when you’re fully into adulthood and your parents are getting older. You start to worry about them and wonder “What will they do? Will they figure it out? Will they get hurt? Will they be happy?” Which I guess is what they were asking themselves when they were raising me and releasing me into the world.
I have to remind myself that I can’t do it for them — “it” being whatever it is they need to do to keep going. The work of figuring “it” out and doing “it” is something they have to do for themselves. I can only be present and patient with them, as they have been with me my whole life as I try to figure my own “it” out.
If my father ever worried about me in this way, he never let it show. He has always been stoic, level-headed, a source of stability. His calmness gave me comfort. He can’t catch me every time I fall, or prevent it from happening, or fix it. But I am eternally grateful to have a father like my father, who I know will always be watching over me when I do fall, asking if I’m ok when I pick myself back up. We’re in it together, doing the best we can.
The road of life is slippery. You are riding along feeling in control. Suddenly things get muddy and your horse slips and falls. It happens.
But you get yourself up, assess the damage, learn from your mistakes, get back on your horse and keep riding. You have to keep going.
Because the view from the summit is spectacular.