“I was holding on to my son by one hand,” said the Forty-Sixer. “His feet were dangling over the drop and his free hand was clawing for a hold on the ice. His life was literally in my hand and I had this voice in my head that said let him go.”
“What did you do?”
“You know, time slows down at those moments. It felt like we were that way for an hour, but we couldn’t have been. It had to have all been over within a second or two.”
“What were you thinking of?”
“I was certain that this was God telling me to do this, but I was trying to reconcile the voice in my head with everything I knew or was told about God. They weren’t fitting together too well until I had it all aligned right. Then everything made sense, I knew why He was telling me to let my son go and what He meant by it.”
“So, you let him go?”
He stopped and, for the first time, looked at me and then around at the room. The room was not much to look at: a hospital bed, a table on wheels, a camera in the corner at the ceiling that fed into the security office, and a plastic chair upon which I uncomfortably sat. It was too small for me; my butt spilled over, like a mushroom upon its pedestal. I wasn’t much to look at, although there was a lot of me. I had a notebook in which I jotted things down. I had on a tie. They like us to have ties in the emergency room despite the fact that psychotic patients could grab and choke us with them. I had an expectant look on my face from which I strove to banish eagerness and condemnation.
I attempted to assure him, “Before you go on, you should know that I have no interest in prosecuting a crime, if a crime has been committed. If you were to tell me that you let go of your son when you could have saved him, that information will be confidential. My only concern here is seeing that you get the treatment you need, if you need any. I am only obligated to report crimes that you might be planning or threatening to commit.”
Of course, I would encourage him to confess to the authorities to facilitate healing and the taking of responsibility. But I chose not to mention that right away.
“Did you let him go?” I pressed.
“Well, yes and no.”
He went on to explain that things are very different above the tree line. The weather is different, the topography is different, you can see further; moreover, the thoughts that you have down on earth are very different when you reach up to heaven. You see things in a new light. Concepts and commandments take on a new meaning.
“It occurred to me what the voice meant when it said to kill him, to sacrifice him, to let him go. It meant something very different when I was above the tree line.”
“What did it mean?”
“I decided that the best way to let him go was to pull him up and just – let him live his own life. To sacrifice him, to kill him meant to end my expectations of him that he would be like me.”
“So, your son is still alive? He came down with you off that mountain?”
“Yea, I pulled him up and said I was sorry for pushing him.”
They hugged briefly on the mountaintop till he felt his son’s trembling stop. It was all very confusing, but somehow made sense to him in the rarefied air at that altitude. Let him go by not letting him go. Kill him by letting him live. Sacrifice him by hugging him on the mountaintop.
He went on to explain that it’s a father’s job to make himself dispensable, to work himself out of a job in his child’s life. Mothers have got to do it, too, but it’s the father that leads the way.
When at last the trembling stopped, the two separated and did their own things. The son took out his cell phone and went on about the great reception; how many bars he had. The Forty-Sixer only felt a little anger at this, just a portion of what he had felt before. Mostly he just rolled his eyes. He took the kite out of his pack and assembled it in the lee of some rocks. Then he flew it like he always does.
The Forty-Sixer played out his kite string to the very end. He held it between two fingers. He felt the tug of the kite, eager to go higher. Then, instead of sadly reeling it back in, as he had always done, he let it go. It flew on, above the forty-six Adirondack peaks over four thousand feet, until it was out of sight.
“Why did you come to the emergency room?” I asked.
“I wanted you to tell me, am I crazy?”