Elbrus: Climbing for my Dad

Greetings from Victoria Day,

We call it the 2-4 Weekend in Newfoundland since Queen Victoria’s birthday was on the 24th. This year the 24th actually fell on a weekend but we’re having the holiday the weekend before, go figure! I’m grateful to have a day to catch my breath. I seem to find it harder these days to get everything into a day that I think should. I’m back teaching and trying to train a bit each day so I’m falling into bed a wee bit tired.

I spent the weekend at a Buddhist study program where we are learning about what are called the Four Dignities. It’s a study of energies and actions. At one point we were studying the interaction of time, season, and natural elements. I had an “a ha” moment when we were discussing the various energies of water, fire, air, earth, and wind. As I’ve reflected on my time in the Grand Canyon, I realize I have been missing the water. It had been awhile since I spent a significant amount of time on/beside/wit
h water. The Colorado River is an amazing body of water that models its ability to flow, dance, march, pulsate, and churn down it’s course.

At one point on our backpacking trip, Ann Marie and I spent hours trying to find words to describe the sights and sounds of a Grand Canyon rapid. Each sentence we tried wasn’t quite it. We wanted the cacophonous roar, the frothy white, the unceasing journey, the dancing spray…obviously I’m still looking for the words. But I touched back into the sensation of being at the head of rapid slipping gently on the pooled pillow of water energy seemingly unmoving while at the same time careening towards the unknown in the chaotic froth below. We would do our best to be set up well and then basically it was ride out whatever comes.

Speaking of “whatever comes”, I had a wonderful conversation with my Grandmother (Oma) last weekend on Mother’s Day. I was saying how amazing it was to still have my Oma and she said, “Whatever comes, comes!” I said, “Did you ever think you would live to be 91?” She answered, “Oh no, I thought I would be dead at 60 since everyone in my family died early.”

I asked, “What do you think the secret of your long life is?” She thought a moment and replied, “I walked everywhere. And I never overeat. I eat my veggies. And have some sweets every now and again. I never hit the bottle much. Though schnapps are a good cure for an upset stomach and take everything as it comes.” This from my Oma would has been declaring to me since I was ten that she was dying, who can still out walk me, and who was famous for carrying heavy cement bags at the age of 70.

At Christmas, I dropped over to see Oma. She said, “I’ll pour you some schnapps.” This tradition first began when I was six and visiting. She would take me down to their basement bar and pour me a small sip of some overly sweet cocktail and regale me with stories. She went over to her liquor cabinet-she had to bed over to get look into it. She had no schnapps, only brandy. So she poured me one into a snifter. I said, “Oma, aren’t you going to have one.” She said, “Oh noooo, the ladies downstairs might think I am an alcoholic.”

A little while later, she tottered back over the cabinet and grabbed the bottle and took a swig right out of the bottle. I said, “Oma, I could get you a glass.” She replied, “No, it’s OK, I just needed a little schlooka (German word for swig that I have no idea how to spell) of brandy since the world is just a bit fuzzy. I think it’s from bending over and this will make me feel better.” “OK, Oma whatever you wish,” I said raising my glass towards her. Oma is my dad’s mother.

Elbrus: Climbing for my Dad

In six weeks, I’ll head over to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus. My Opa (Oma’s husband) was a prisoner of war in Russia so I will think of him as I travel there. I’ll also be thinking of my dad, Heinz. When I think back to being a young girl, growing up in the seventies, I am so grateful to my dad. He included me in all of his activities. Looking through our family photo albums, I see pictures of me seeing beside him on a garage roof with my plastic hammer at age four. I see us changing off the winter tires of the car. We cast lead bullets and then shot them from historic black powder rifles. He taught me to clean fish and always select the right tool for the job. He coached me in water skiing and snow skiing, SCUBA diving, and throwing. My dad expected me to get my work done before I played and he knew I was strong and capable of lifting lots.

I thank my dad for all of this and more because I know those experiences are woven together in me forming the weft on which the confidence I have to undertake my adventures is woven. It is the skill I have in using tools and operating machinery that supports my technical skills and creation of climbing systems. It is his vision that life should include a little of this and a little of that, that inspired me to be a generalist with skills and knowledge in many activities rather than just one.

My dad, like my mom, has had to struggle with a cancer journey. He actually was diagnosed first with prostate cancer and mom was diagnosed with breast cancer six months later. My dad has endured surgery, hormone therapy and chemotherapy. Throughout the years, he’s managed to keep his sense of humour and ability to face whatever comes. It is time for me now to lend some strength and confidence back to my dad. My dad’s birthday and Father’s Day are both in June.

In honour of my dad, Heinz, and in honour of all fathers, I am dedicating my climb of Elbrus to my dad. I’m calling it, “Elbrus: Climbing for My Dad.” I would like to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to raise funds for the Canadian Prostate Cancer Network (CPCN). This non-profit association provides “The Voice for Prostate Cancer” in Canada and offers men and their families support for the journey of prostate cancer. I am speaking to their national conference here in St. John’s in September about the life lessons I’ve learned from both climbing and my dad.

Given the current economic climate, I’ve chosen a moderate goal of raising $1000 for the CPCN. Again like Pumori: Climb for Awareness, none of the money will go towards climbing expenses.

To donate to Elbrus: Climbing for My Dad, please click on the following link: http://www.cpcn.org/honour_form.asp

Click the “In Honour” button and please fill out “Elbrus: Climbing for my Dad.” For the acknowledgment card, please use my address (I don’t want to beam out my parent’s address for all to see in cyberspace). I’ll forward all the acknowledgments to my dad.

TA Loeffler
7 Wood Street
St. John’s, NL
A1C 3K8

Thanks in advance of your support of this worthy cause. I just made the first donation to the climb. If you are uncomfortable with donating online, please click this link for a downloadable form that you can mail in: http://www.cpcn.org/03_how_to_donate.htm.

I know by dedicating my efforts on Mount Elbrus to my dad and all dads, I will be infused with new energy and focus for the climb. Speaking of which, I should get off my chair and start training. Have a good week,


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