A Letter to my Daughter, Part II

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My dearest Zoe, today I took a trip to Zion, which was badly needed. I dropped Brook and the kids of at the school around eight and headed east towards the park around 8:30. I arrived at the trailhead for Angels Landing around 9:40 and headed up the trail as fast as I could. I needed to be back at the school by 1, so I had to hustle in order to reach the summit and return in time.

The Angels Landing trail is considered by many to be one of the greatest in all of North America, and ever since I first reached the lofty summit of this magnificent peak in 2011, I have wanted to take you on it. (We got about 3/4 of the way up the trail about a month or so ago.) I sincerely look forward to the day when you and I can do it together. Of course, being that this trail has massive exposure, we will have to work on regaining a lot of trust before I take you on it.

I thought of you a lot as I hiked, but I didn’t once think of that terrible scene from a week ago. This is a trail that requires full concentration. Being freed from that God-awful mental loop was a major relief for me. This is one reason why I climb, it frees me from any and all issues I might be experiencing back in the “real” world. I think that you too will utilize this aspect of climbing as you grow.

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The famsters on the Angels Landing trail, in Refrigerator Canyon

 

I want to return to the thread I began in my last letter to you. I ended it by recalling how I ended up moving to Southern Oregon. Despite living about an hour from you, I made every effort to see you on the weekends, often driving over one thousand miles each month in order to do so. I am proud of that fact. I would have done it even if the distance had been further.

Shortly after moving to Roseburg, I met Brook and we fell in love and created a family together. Your brother Ryan was about a month and a half when Brook and I met, and you were so excited to be an instant older sister. You were six when this happened. For a while, you and Brook had a somewhat harder time bonding, but when you admitted to being jealous of her, everything changed. You guys grew closer and closer as time went on, something that made me profoundly happy. Eventually you even started calling her mama.

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This was during the worst period of chronic pain, as evidenced by my gaunt appearance.

 

These were some difficult times for all of us. My chronic pain issues reached their peak, and there were times I seriously considered suicide myself. I was in so much agony then, and it seemed like there was no escaping it. You were always so protective and compassionate to me when I would be wracked by pain. It was hard for me to be as good a father as I wanted then. Thankfully, I would eventually find the medication that would unlock the doors of this prison.

Despite that rough time, we still managed to find time to go climbing and hiking occasionally. I remember really well when you were seven, and Ryan was a year old, we hiked to the top of Mt. Bailey, an 8000′ mountain just an hour from home. That hike was a true mountain climb: 11 miles roundtrip with something like 3000′ of elevation gain. But you did it, and all under your own power. I was so impressed. On the way back down, you were so exhausted that you kept falling asleep on your feet as we walked.

Zoe, Brook and Ryan on Mt. Bailey

Zoe, Brook and Ryan on Mt. Bailey

Then a couple of weeks later we made an attempt on Union Peak, a smaller mountain in Crater Lake National Park. Again, you did great, but neglected to tell us that your ill-fitting shoes were forming blisters on your feet. When we were within a few hundred feet of the summit, the pain got to be too much and you had to stop just short of the peak. Unfortunately, your feet were so thrashed that you had to be carried out, something like five and a half miles. My friends Scott and Eddie took turns carrying you. Luckily you were small enough that this was possible.

Zoe on the way up Union Peak

Zoe on the way up Union Peak

During this period, we had a lot of financial struggles, and had to move several times. We lived for a time in a mobile home on the banks of the North Umpqua river and that was a magical time for us. Our good friends Amy and Erik lived next door, and their son Hagen and you really enjoyed being able to see each other that often. But all good things come to an end, and more financial struggles forced us once again to move, this time relocating to my Mom’s home.

Around that same time, you and your mom moved north to Portland, and my ability to see you on a weekly basis came to an end. This was probably the most difficult period we had faced, but again, we managed to stay close.

End part II

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A letter to my daughter

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On Thursday, December 4, 2014, my daughter Zoe Lynn attempted suicide. It was only by intuition or divine intervention that I woke up and found her struggling with a rope around her neck. I was able to prevent her from dying, but there is much work that now must begin to heal her, myself and my family. I hope this letter is the beginning of such a healing.

Dearest Zoe,

You came into this world on February 3, 2001., surrounded by friends, family, peaceful music and candlelight. You were born at home, in our apartment off River road in Eugene, Oregon. When Clarebeth, the head midwife, lifted you up and cried “it’s a girl!”, everyone erupted in cheers. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

You were such a sweet, mellow baby, and I realized after you were born that i truly did not know what love was until you entered my life. I did not know what life was until you entered mine You were such a funny little goose. When you began crawling, you hated having your picture taken. You would fuss and scoot towards me, trying to get so close I couldn’t take a shot. You also were a little jealous, and never wanted your mom and I to be close, pulling us apart if we cuddled.

I remember all too well, when 9/11 occurred and you were just a few months old, how scared I was, and how I wondered about the kind of world I had brought you into, and whether it was fair of us to bring you here when so much bad was happening. Of course, I no longer feel that way.

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Your mom and I did not remain together much longer beyond that, a clash of personalities that was impossible to fix. But fortunately for myself, I was always able to see you on a daily basis, and as you grew, we became closer and closer. Many people said you were a daddy’s girl, and I still think that is true. We have always been close, and I hope we always remain so.

When your mom went to Nursing school, I took over the primary care for you for a period of a few years, and even though it was hard, it was one of the most rewarding periods in my life. I would wake up each weekday around 6 am, feed you and get you ready for school. Then I would return home and try to get a few extra hours of sleep. Then I would wake up, pick you up from school, we would have lunch and then I would take you back to the school for aftercare. Then I would go to work (as a manager at Sweet Life) and work from 3 until after eleven (most nights), then I would go and get you from your Mom’s house, where you were asleep, put you in my truck and drive back to my apartment. I was fortunate to be able to get to sleep by one in the morning. Then I would wake up around 6 and start it all over again.

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During that period, I would take you on walks up Spencer’s Butte almost daily, carrying you in the baby backpack as we wound our way towards the summit. I remember once when it snowed, you hiked all the way to the top on your own (in over a foot of snow, too!) When your Uncle David and cousin Travis came to visit us, they took you on a hike on the Butte, but it quickly got too dark to continue, and you threw a hissy fit because you wanted to reach the summit. Of course, as a climber, I loved that.

I started taking you to the rock climbing gym at three years old, and wow, you blew me away with not only your natural climbing ability, but also your determination. I remember seeing other kids around your age trying to climb at the gym, and mostly they seemed to want to just swing on the rope and play. Not you. You were aiming for the top. I actually had to make you stop, take breaks, get a drink of water, because otherwise as soon as I lowered you from a route, you immediately wanted to go right back up.

I remember when you graduated from pre-school at the Waldorf. I was the one parent there who was bawling like a baby, it was so embarrassing, not because I was crying but just because all the other parents weren’t. I have always been very emotional about you.

A series of events (your great-uncle Jorge, your Pampa (my father) and my friend Traci all passing away, a painful breakup with my then-girlfriend Bethany, stress at work) put me on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and I myself went through some serious emotional trauma, which culminated in me taking myself to the hospital and getting mental help for a few days. I remember times when I would be just sobbing, and you, all of three or four years old, would drape yourself over me, trying to comfort and protect me with all of your soul and body. Eventually I made the difficult decision to move an hour south to Roseburg,  a more rural area so I could decompress for a while. Yet I still was able to have you for almost every weekend, and even though I didn’t get to see you every day, I was still so grateful to see you as often as I did. It wasn’t easy for us, but we always made the most of the time we had.

End Part I