Before he even began to walk, my son Dustin climbed. On the ground, he never stopped moving. He was a rough and tumble little boy who couldn’t keep still. From the time he could crawl, his favourite game was Try And Catch Me. He was loud, energetic and bouncy….except when he gained altitude.
When he was 8 months old, he climbed onto the shelf inside the microwave cart we had in the kitchen. Later, he would climb the outside of the cart. It was about this time, he took to constantly climbing onto the toilet and into the bathroom sink. There I would find him, whenever I noticed him missing, sitting in the sink using someone else’s toothbrush.
He never stopped climbing things. He climbed anything and everything that interested him to climb.
I remember the time we were getting ready to move out of our apartment in Woodside, Queens. The apartment had very high ceilings…at least ten feet high. I packed loads into large cardboard boxes. Someone decided to stack these large boxes one on top of each other until they were about 2 feet away from the ceiling. (I don’t remember how this was done or why). Dustin was 14 months old then and I found him…sitting on top of one of the top boxes with his head just inches away from the ceiling. He was evidently pleased with himself as he was sitting there grinning and clapping his hands. A part of me wishes I had stopped to take a picture but at the time I was too preoccupied with trying to get him safely down.
He often had me afraid…
Like the time he climbed onto the kitchen bin. He managed to get himself into a kneeling position on the lid and then fell off…onto his knees! He couldn’t walk for four days.
When we went to the playground, he would run off at top speed and disappear. I soon learned that in order to find him, I had to look up. There he would be at the top of the monkey bars.
He grew more and more daring in quite a short time. He use to sit on top of one of the high pillars of one of the playground equipment. I would find him taking in his surroundings with a look of peace as if he was a guru at the top of a mountain. I marvelled at this peace he showed. I never saw him so serene and calm on the ground. It sometimes seemed to me that the higher he climbed, the more at peace he appeared to be. Of course, as he got older, he climbed trees too. I tried very hard not to let him see my fear as I imagined all kinds of troubling scenarios.
When he was bout eleven, I witnessed my most terrifying moment yet when we went with another family on a camping trip. While we were at the camp-site, we were approached by a young guide who offered to take us on a hike to see a large rock. We all agreed to go with children in tow after he confirmed it was perfectly safe to bring them. What none of us knew was that this large rock was more of a boulder (about 7 feet high) that stood on the edge of a precipice.
When Dustin climbed this rock and sat looking out over this precipice I learned that I suddenly had developed a phobia I never had before. Seeing my son on the edge of what looked like certain death stricken me. I couldn’t coax him down or even look anywhere near him. I fell on the ground and buried my head in my arms. Luckily, someone else was there with more sense than me who casually asked Dustin to get down. From that moment on however I had a fear of heights in open places.
In high school, Dustin became known as the boy who went through the basketball hoop thus finding his own way to gain friends and admiration.
My boy had no fear of heights, in fact he loved them. Heights were not a problem for him and neither was the climb. I will soon be visiting my now adult son across the Atlantic. When I am there, I hope to remind him of his past courage and accomplishments. It’s time for my son to climb a new mountain and to remember what peace is.