So There I Was ...
By Brian Beatty
There I was, with my father, above tree line in the Never Summer Mountains in Colorado. We were about 12 miles in on a 20-something jaunt when the weather changed and storm clouds blew in. I enjoy exposure, Dad not so much, but both of us agreed that we were now where no one prefers to be when a storm blows in. We had skirted a pass around Parika Peak and still had to get through Bowen Pass before there would be any cover. I wasn’t happy; my father was even grimmer. After all, the distance and route of this outing was my idea, not his.
Countless hours and days we had spent together pleasurably in the woods and fields, a shared love of being together, outside. But the joy had been missing recently – for the past 17 months, to be exact. It had been 17 months since I had returned a call to him, only to hear a tone in his voice I never care to hear again: “Brian, it’s bad, it’s real bad. Your mother died last night.” These words strip one’s soul. Recovery takes time.
I had left one career behind and followed in my parents’ footsteps to become a physical therapist. My last clinical rotation in school took me to Boulder and it had finished a week before. It was August and my father had come to Colorado to spend a week camping, hiking and jogging together. We both needed it.
Now I had us both exposed to a looming thunderstorm with nothing bigger than scree for cover. The pace quickened as we headed anxiously for the pass. I had a summer at altitude in my legs; he had a lifetime of running in his. We hit the pass and started scampering down switchbacks descending toward green tree and meadow. The storm blew over and sun returned as we hit a meadow in full bloom of summer wildflowers.
As we paused for water and food, I looked into that familiar face. A face lined from growing up outside on a farm and a lifetime of running. I am told that I spent many infant early morning hours peering up at that face and the slowly brightening sky above while he walked outside carrying me so Mom could sleep. Now I stared at that face and the blue eyes showed the familiar sparkle, the lines on the face relaxed. A deep, soft smile of enjoyment formed. It had been absent for the last year and a half. From deep in me, I could feel my smile form to return his. What did I see in my father; what did he see in me? Who was touched? By whom, for whom? All I know is that moment will always hold joy and a smile for me. The healing had begun. Life would continue and peace and joy could be found.
I dropped my father at the airport a couple of days later and picked up my then girlfriend, now wife, Elizabeth, for another week of play. Joy was beginning to creep back in. New paths lay ahead. Seventeen years and countless outside hours together have been gifted to us. For this I am grateful, as for the simple beauty of being outside, admiring the miracle of our world, family and love.
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Brian Beatty, the son of physical therapists, received his physical therapy degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brian has been working in private orthopedic-based practice for his whole career, and founded Balanced Physical Therapy in 1999. He is an active member of the American Physical Therapy Association, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.