Steve had always the typical over achiever. Great student, even better athlete, and everything seemed to come so easy. By the time he finished college, he had already accomplished so much, yet things had just begun.
Landing a high paying marketing job right out of college, he set his sights on one day becoming head of his own firm. And that “someday” came sooner than later. By the time he was thirty he owned a very successful agency with forty of the brightest employees in the industry. Things were perfect.
Just before his thirty-fifth birthday, he married his long time sweetheart and they set their sights on a family. Life was incredible.
By the time he reached forty, all his successes and goals had accumulated to a point that he started finding himself searching for new ones, new challenges. At the same time though, he realized that the hussle and bussle of daily life in the Marketing industry was starting to wear him down. So he and his wife Christy decided to purchase a second home in Breckenridge, a place where they could get away and forget all the responsibilities of the business, and the drain of city life. In no time at all, the second home became a place of comfort and tranquility. With the love of his wife and children, life felt complete.
One day while sitting on the deck of their new mountain home, Steve and Christy noticed a clearing in the brush at the end of their property. Together they walked over to it and found that this was a trail that most likely led to the base of the foothill. No telling exactly how far down, but the trail looked steep. The brush had started to grow back, but there was no doubt that this was a trail that used to get a lot of use.
Early the next morning, Steve drove down to the bottom of the hill where he had seen a make shift parking lot. Someone had parked on the grass enough times that it had left a dried out section of land. He pulled into the area and got out of his car. Sure enough, just as he suspected, an opening, just like the one in his back yard. He walked back to the car, threw on some hiking shoes, grabbed a bottle of water, checked the time, and began his assent.
Forty minutes into the climb, Steve realized he did not have the stamina he once did as a college level athlete. He sat down for a quick drink and to catch his breath. While sitting there, the achiever in him made a promise. He promised that he would master this climb, and beat his time, even if by seconds, each time he hiked the trail. Back on his feet, he started again and twenty-eight minutes later he reached the top. He looked at his watch and saw that his first initial climb took seventy two minutes, a time he knew he would and could beat.
Christy came out onto the porch and asked where he had been. He told her about his new hobby and the challenge he made to himself. She saw that same determination in his eyes that he had when he opened his firm. She admired this in him and always found his dedicaton to a goal, any goal, very attractive. She kissed him and went back inside. Steve grabbed a pocketknife out of the junk drawer and walked to the top of the path. There on a large oak tree, he carved the number 72.
Over the next four years, every time Steve and Christy visited the home, Steve would make his climb. And almost every time he did, he would beat the previous time, even if by a few seconds. And when he would get it down a whole minute, he would carve a new number. Currently it was at 49.
One fourth of July weekend, Steve and Christy invited all their friends from the city, all of their family, and the neighbors they had met in Breckenridge. It was to be a day to remember.
Early that morning, Steve set out to do his climb. Christy left at the same time to pick up a few things for the party. As Steve pulled off the side of the road to park in his spot, she drove past, waved, and gave him a honk. He smiled and waved back. He looked up at the sky and saw the clouds coming in. He prayed that they would pass before the party, and then turned towards his trail. Today, he would beat 49 minutes, he knew it. He set his timer and took off like a sprinter.
Thirty-five minutes into it, he knew he was making great time and would beat last weeks time with ease, but he didn’t let up. He pushed himself and his leg muscles burned. He came around a small switchback that he had so many time before. This was a section he needed to be careful at because there was a twenty-foot drop. Almost thru it, a huge bang erupted right next to him and before he could catch himself, he was falling towards the bottom. The lightening bolt didn’t hit him directly, but it might as well have because what came next was just as horrible.
When Steve opened his eyes he wasn’t sure how long he had been out. He quickly remembered the fall and thought to himself how lucky he was that he did not get hit directly by the strike. He didn’t feel any pain, so he thought he must be okay. Then he tried to move and nothing happened. His legs were not only non responsive, they were paralyzed. He could move his arms just enough to look at his watch. It had been 87 minutes since he started his climb. He laid his hand back down and started to weep. Not only did he loose the ability to walk, he had failed to beat his old time.
On her way back to the house, Christy drove by Steve’s car. She knew he would be waiting for him at the top and she would have to drive him back down to get his car. She had done this so many times before, but this time he would have to wait until she got the ice cream into the freezer.
When she walked into the house, she headed straight to the refrigerator. She hollered thru the house “Did you beat it? Did you break 49 minutes?” But there was no answer. She walked upstairs thinking he was in the shower, but he wasn’t. She ran outside, but he wasn’t there. She ran inside to the phone to call the neighbor, but he wasn’t there either.
This Fourth of July would still be a party, but it would be a search party. Three hours later Steve was airlifted away broken, battered, and paralyzed. Life wasn’t so good.
Over the next twelve months, Steve spent a lot of time in rehab, little time at the office, and the remainder of it in Breckenridge. He would sit on the deck, remembering the day he and Christy found the path and how perfect life was. Back when he had everything, and now he had nothing, or so he thought. He wished he had never seen that path.
After the first year, he was able to drive himself. A handicap van, complete with ramp and hand controls had been built for him and now he could come and go as he pleased, but he didn’t go, he didn’t go anywhere. Instead, he sat on that porch staring at the path, and everyday the brush got thicker and thicker. Eventually no one would even know that a trail existed, and no one else would have to go thru what he had experienced.
One year, three months, and twelve days after the accident, he woke with a different feeling. Instead of feeling like the victim on this day, he felt like the person angry at the victim. He felt angry that he had let this self-pity go on as long as it did.
All day long he heard an inner voice yelling to quit complaining and to stop sitting around, to get his life back, find a new goal, start over. The voices became so loud that he started to wonder if he was going crazy. He couldn’t sit still, and he couldn’t focus on anything.
Christy had been gone all morning with the kids doing some errands, and so he decided to get out of the house for a while. Maybe that would calm the voices. Not knowing exactly where he was headed, he got into his van and started to drive. When he reached the bottom of the hill, he knew why today was different and where he needed to be. There, on the right hand side of the road, was the place he used to park. He had not been there since the accident. Every time they drove to the house, he would look away. But today it stared him right in the face. He pulled over to the side of the road and onto the spot. Just like the trail, the grass here had started to return. Almost as if it was telling him, “we won, you lost.” He put the vehicle in park and sat. At first he thought this was all he needed to do. That what he was meant to do today was face the location. But before he could think, he was out of the van, sitting in his wheelchair. He rolled to the foot of the trail, moved the branches aside, and stared up the hill.
For no reason he could explain, he started to feel like the old Steve again. His chest came forward, the frown went away, and he no longer felt like a victim. Now he felt like someone with a huge opportunity. He looked at his watch, checked the time, and dove out of his wheel chair. On his hands and knees, he dragged himself into the brush and up the trail.
On her way home from running errands, Christy started her drive up the hill to the house. For whatever reason, she failed to see Steve’s van on the side of the road. Maybe it was because over the last year, the trees had grown in, or maybe it was because in her wildest dreams she had never expected to see Steve’s van there again. But nonetheless, she drove right by it without a single glance. When she got home, Steve was not there. A smile came over her face as she realized he finally got out of the house on his own and maybe he was feeling better today.
Two hours later, Steve had made it a third of the way up. He lay there taking a break, hands bloody, knees torn up, and tears running down his face. One might look upon this situation as a time of frustration and defeat, but it was just the opposite. The thoughts running thru his mind were those of gratefulness and passion, strength and victory! He was not only doing it, he was doing it alone without the help of others or his wheel chair. He felt free again and more alive than ever. If he had any negative thoughts, there was only one. He was so angry at himself that it had taken so long to step up and regain the fire he knew he always had for adversity and challenge.
Christy began to worry when she could not get him on his cell phone. Where had he gone, and why wasn’t he answering? She waited another thirty minutes before calling her neighbor. She came over and sat with Christy and together they thought about where he might be.
Four hours and twenty-three minutes later, Steve found himself more than two thirds of the way up. Right at the place that he had fallen over a year ago, he found himself right back where it had all began. Anger started to creep up inside of him, but he caught himself and realized that being angry did no good. Being angry was what took away the last fifteen months of his life. It wasn’t being physically paralyzed, it was being emotionally paralyzed that stole away those months.
So there, in the middle of it all, he promised to never be angry again. He looked down at his beaten up legs, and the blood on his hands, and told himself that if he was ever to be the man he used to be, it had to start now. He looked up towards the top and with a smile bigger than he had ever worn before, he pushed forward up the hill.
Christy could not wait any longer. She and her neighbor agreed that it was time to call the authorities. So she picked up the phone and called the police. She gave a description of her husband and his vehicle. The woman on the phone explained that it was too early for a missing persons report, but that an officer would drive thru the neighborhood and let her know. Christy hung up the phone, not feeling much better. She sat on the porch and waited for news. She looked over at the trail, covered with brush, and cursed it. That damn trail took her husband away from her. She wished they had never found it in the first place. No longer able to think about it, she went back inside and waited for news.
Forty five minutes after the call, a squad car drove towards Steve and Christies home. As he was making his way up the hill, he noticed something. Off on the side of the road, he spotted Steve’s vehicle. He pulled off to the side and got out of his car. There, at the base of the hill, was the wheelchair Steve left behind. Not sure what to think, the officer walked towards it and then up into the trail about 50 feet. He saw nothing. He then called Steve’s name, but heard nothing. In his mind, there was no way Steve was here, and something must have happened. He walked back to his car and continued to drive up the hill to meet Christy and tell her what he had found. Someone must have picked him up.
Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang. Christy walked to the front door and opened it. Her worste fears were staring her in the face. The officer asked if he could come in, and she said of course. He told her that he had been driving thru the area with no luck. But then, on his way here, he spotted Steve’s vehicle. It was empty and the wheel chair was left behind. As the officer explained this, clearly thinking that Steve had been abducted or picked up by a friend, Christy face and mood changed. She was no longer afraid and she was no longer worried. Instead, as the officer continued to speak and ask questions, she pushed him aside and ran thru the door. She bolted to the only place she knew to find him. The closer she got to the trail, the surer she was. She ran to the entrance and moved the branches aside. There, laying on the ground, was Steve. This wasn’t the Steve she first met, and it wasn’t the Steve she’d been with after the accident, this was a whole new Steve. A Steve with a new appreciation of life and the gifts he still had. He looked up at her, covered in dirt, sweat, and blood, and he winked. There were streaks down the side of his face from the tears. He said “one second honey” and turned away, and there, she saw what it was he needed to do before he could tell her where he had been. Far down, at the base of that oak tree, he was doing what he always did after climbing the trail. In big script he had carved into the base “Five hours, one minute…..BEST TIME EVER!!”
Remember, it’s not about how fast you do it, it’s about the Journey……..it’s about the Climb!!”
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