Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summiting Denali with Isaac is an Insurmountable #LifeGoal

I’ve lived in Alaska long enough to know that there are simply some things I’ll never do. Things that other people do here routinely like they’re NBFD.

For example: surfing in 35-degree water, kayaking across the Gulf, shooting caribou hot dogs on the North Slope, or summiting Denali—the highest peak in North America. I wouldn’t do it with a guide. I wouldn’t do it with my son. I wouldn’t do it in the spring. I wouldn’t do it with a fling. I wouldn’t do it with my mom. I wouldn’t do it all alone. Just pretend Denali is green eggs and ham, except covered in snow year-round and based in Talkeetna, and at the end I still refuse to eat that shit.

That doesn’t mean I’m not awestruck by adventurers who have the balls to do something as daring and brave as summit Denali, much less a MOM who does it with her teenage son and no guide. 

Beth Bragg’s report in the Anchorage Daily News that Canyon Tobin, 19, and his mom, Nora Miller, 50, summited Denali together in likely the first unguided mother-son duo to bag the peak got me thinking about a couple things: (a) how incredibly badass this was; and (b) how the likelihood of me summiting Denali with Isaac is about as high as me winning the lottery and using the prize money to buy new boobs. Not that I’ve considered this. I just maybe know someone who has.

Point is, this is light years away from an activity I imagine myself doing with Isaac, who granted is only 7, but who based on our current relationship seems highly unlikely to acquiesce to something like this in his teen years or any other time.

According to the article, Canyon was named after Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, where Nora and her ex-husband, Carl Tobin, went on their second date. Nora fell 110 feet and Carl saved her life.

Well see now there’s your first problem.

Isaac is named Isaac because I was originally going to name him Jude, but then decided at the last minute that Jude sounded too much like “Jew” for a Jewish kid who is growing up in Juneau. I kept muttering “Jude, Jew, Juneau” over and over until I landed on something more Gentile. 
Then I waddled home and took a sterile shower to ready myself for my scheduled C-section the next day. I think Geoff brought me a jar of jalapeno-stuffed olives at one point during that weekend, and I might have said “OMG YOU FUCKING SAVED MY LIFE WITH THESE,” but that’s where the similarities end. 

Canyon and his mom “took turns pretending to pull each other out of a crevasse” in their garage. I can’t even get Isaac to find his cleats and lunchbox in our goddamned garage. And I can’t get him to summit his bunk bed at night without both of us losing our shit within 15 seconds.

So the thought of being “roped together for nearly two weeks” and “sharing a small tent and spending very little time apart” with “never any big tension between us” seems improbable, at best.

The last time Isaac was roped to me, it was with an umbilical cord. And I think that’s exactly how he’d like to keep it. Oh he’s athletic enough. After all, he tempts fate and paralysis daily in baseball, snowboarding, and leaping from high places for no reason at all. His sense of self-preservation is non-existent, so it’s not that I can’t see him becoming a mountain climber (despite the fact that making him walk three blocks is torture). It’s just that I can’t see him becoming a mountain climber with ME. Not only because of my complete ineptitude, but because of Isaac’s desire to get as far away from me as possible, as frequently as possible.

If I so much as try to kiss Isaac on the top of his head he screams “NO KISSES!!!” and pretends he doesn’t know me when I leave him with his teenaged snowboarding instructor. He criticizes my pitching, claiming I throw inadequate “breaking balls” and “sinkers.” When I recently recounted the story behind a scar on his forehead, and the quick-thinking mothering that followed, he rolled his eyes and said “please don’t remind me of such a dark time in my life.”

In short, Isaac already thinks I’m a hopeless source of mortification. So if I told him he had to be roped to me for nearly two weeks—for any reason—and live in a tent with me and only me while we were climbing to the top of a mountain, he would probably collapse in a hysterical heap of snot and tears at the mere thought of it.

So mad respect to Canyon and Nora for what seems, to me at least, an impossible Mother/Son Life Goal.





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