Monday, July 13, 2015

Reoccurring Storms

I sometimes let myself have a day or so of depression, away from Cory of course, and face the storm in my head and try to at least calm it. Then I think how happy he is, how much he loves me and needs me, and how much I need and love him. I am so damned proud of him. He's an amazing young man.

It's not fair.

There was a time I retreated from it a bit; I disappeared into some bad, self-destructive escapes. That really was not fair to Cory.  Fortunately it was an unfairness I could do something about. I bounced back and I give it my best.

Tonight the storm returned; the raging head torment of "What could have been?"

This week a very close friend and former Marine comrade came to visit. We moved to Montana together out of the service and spent much of our time wandering remote, wild places year-round, for many years, taking long treks that were rigorously tough for us even back then in our late 20s fresh out of Force Recon. He has a son a few years older than Cory. They are as close as I think friends can be considering that he lives in Alabama. He is really sweet to Cory and Cory really looks up to him. Cory asks him a lot of questions about soccer and the South and southern food and whether or not he had a girlfriend or has danced with any girls. We spent a nice day on a wild river where Cory watched him swim to the other side, climb a cliff and jump off with his dad and me. I could tell Cory wished he could do it. I wish he could.

It's not fair.

My friend and his son headed out backpacking for a week. Cory used to go with me. He loved it. Until our trips grew more difficult for him, when he started falling a lot and cutting up his legs.  He never complained. He kept trudging. Once, we had to post-hole through deep snow to get over a pass and down to a lake of wild fish on the other side. Cory could not do it. His legs gave out rapidly. I said we should go back. He said no. I carried him through on my shoulders, when he was nearly too heavy to carry, which made the post-holing deeper and more difficult. I fell once and his face hit the snow so hard his lip was bleeding. I said we should turn back. He said no. I carried him the rest of the way, to where we dropped back down out of the snow. He caught and ate a lot of wild fish. We had a great time.

Last summer it became too much. We didn't make it far. It was the first time I ever carried a toilet seat with collapsible legs. But he needed it; he can't squat anymore. It reminds me of the last time he skied, before we knew but first started thinking something was wrong because his legs gave out quickly and he wanted to stop. He is losing interest. He's at the maybe phase with it. We might go again. Maybe. But I doubt it. At the age of 15 Cory has likely experienced his last backback trip.

It's not fair.

He says he'd rather camp near the car where's there's outhouses. I've always avoided such places, the places I call mild wild and defiled wild. The abstract wild. But I sure enjoy it with Cory . . . even while also sometimes wishing we were way back at no-name lake where the land has no trails -- except for those made by wild elk, moose and mountain goats.     

I thought about going with them, my friend and his son -- they were headed into country Jim and I used to roam back in the day. Way back. No trails. Thick north slopes of alder and menzesia brush. Tough bushwacking. Lakes with no names (and I mean it, really -- except for the names I give them, like "Dead Baby Goat Lake" and "Mad Moose Lake"-- but yes, I would call them no name even if they did.) Great fishing. No people. No judgement. It is what it is. It's wild. It's beautiful. It’s the real world. It’s life. Even in death.

I want Cory to know that; to experience what I've experienced.

It's not fair.

We got off to a great start. I started lugging him around the mountains before he could even walk -- the first time he couldn't walk, that is, at the age when most kids can't – with me carrying him on my back along with tent, sleeping bags, food, fishing rod and a stuffed animal or two. He got his own backpack as soon as he could walk, back when he walked and ran like most kids do. He has seen wild grizzlies and mountain goats, and wild elk and wolves, and wild black bear and moose. He has swam naked in wild rivers and lakes. He has put up with misquotoes and horse flies and rain and snow, cold and heat, and lightening and moons and stars. He has heard and felt the wild chilling music of wolves and loons. He has eaten wild elk and grouse, and wild trout and huckleberries. He can set up a tent and gather firewood, build a fire and catch and cook wild trout. He can tell the difference between a Doug fir and a "P" pine, and a black bear track and a grizzly track. He knows how to dismantle camp so nobody could ever know we were there, the only trace remaining in photos and our shared memories.

I watched Cory watch his friend pack for the adventure. I could tell it hurt. It hurt me.

But then we did other stuff, stuff he wanted to do. We floated and swam in wild rivers. I pushed him as far back as I could into the Rattlesnake in his wheelchair. We hung out at Barnes and Noble and talked about books and ideas. He is happy. I am happy when I am with him.

I try not to think too much into the future  . . . when the legs fully go, then the arms, then the heart and lung muscles. I try not to think about it.  

It's not fair.

Sometimes I finally, suddenly and unexpectedly write; It pours out with the tears.   

It’s 4:52 am. In three hours I need to get him up, cook him breakfast, make his lunch and get him ready for his first day at Improv Theater Camp. He loves theater. I'll probably go photograph wild things wild at camp. Later, we might go jump in a wild river. We'll both be happy.

Until late tomorrow night and into the wee hours of the morning.

It is what it is. It's wild. It's beautiful. It’s the real world. It’s life. Even in death.

It's not fair.


  1. Thank you David for expressing so beautifully your struggles which mirror my own when we speak of our amazing son. I feel the same, it isn't fair. All we can do is hold Cory's hands and give him every ounce of love we have for him. It isn't fair, no it isn't fair.

  2. I just discovered your blog today. Good stuff. I have a 17-year-old son who has backpacked into the wilderness to hunt and fish with me since he was 6 years old. Squirrels, rabbits, cutthroat, brookies, elk, you name it. Reading about you and your son is heart-rending, but you and your son have lived in a way that few every do.