One of the things that you may have gathered from reading my blog posts is that I live in guilt ridden hell. Growing up Catholic among other things, I have always tried to keep the peace around my house and also keeping the peace on an everyday basis. I am not a confrontational person and usually I would rather inconvenience myself to get the job done, and make sure everyone is happy. That is why I call myself – “The Sherpa.”
If you look at the picture of the gentleman above with the huge pack and the smile on his face, you will see an actual Sherpa. This tribe of individuals is indiginous to the mountainous regions of the Tibetan Himalaya and they are hard working folks who haul all the gear, tents, luggage for alpine climbing expeditions in the Himalaya. I am sure you have seen and read about these individuals and their feats of strength always amazed me as they made it to the summits with those tremendous loads that they carry. I have always admired the Sherpas and have read a lot about them. In my Walter Mitty way, I am a Sherpa. Take skiing for instance. When I was first married, my wife Janet skied but I wanted to make sure that she always came with me so I took it upon myself to carry her boots and mine in a backback. I hauled her skis on my shoulders along with mine and often walked to the lodge loaded down with equipment. Not that she would not do it, but I wanted to minimize inconvenience. When Jack came along, I bought a bigger pack and loaded three pairs of boots in the pack and hauled three sets of skis on my shoulders and asked them timidly to take the poles. I took it upon myself to help them with their ski boots in the lodge or if we had the opportunity to park near the trail head, I would help them put the boots on kneeling on the frozen ground to minimize any inconvenience or possible complaints due to the definite “pain in the ass factor”of skiing. The sport can be tedious at times schlepping all of the gear in the cold, getting everyone ready with the usual litany of making sure that we had all of the equipment. I was the equipment manager as well as the Sherpa and it worked out well even though I was sweating like a wild man before I took my first turn- even in arctic conditions.
Sometimes, my nieces and nephews would come along and the process became a little more involved with more Himalayan quality schlepps to the slopes. But the smiles were worth it and if there was any inconvenience experienced, I took care of it. Like when my son wanted me to take his socks off because he didn’t like them in the ski boots. I stopped where I was, got down on my hands and knees and took the socks off and he skied the rest of his day with bare feet in the boots. Taking the boots off at the end of the day, they were steaming like a cooling tower at a power plant. Amazing about kids but whatever it took for comfort, that was my motto.
Perhaps the ultimate Sherpa experience besides my family ski outings was the time that I had 13 visually impaired skiers to look after at the National Blind Skiing Championships( read about it in my post-February 17th,2013) I took two of our guys with me but because of weather and a lack of volunteers, I was put in charge of 13 competitors. Congo lines to dinner and the slopes were the norm and my Sherpa skills were sharpened by hauling all of their equipment to the slopes and making sure that I had it all in the van at the end of the day. All of this in below zero temps in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Sherpa family experiences did not take a hiatus in the summer. Hauling beach chairs, umbrellas, pack and plays, coolers, and all sorts of beach toys became a ritual in the early days of the McCloskeys at the beach. Things are a little better now that Jack is grown but the guilt ridden hell still pervades as I haul all of it into the garage after a trip just like in the old days.
One thing you learn being an aspiring Sherpa is that you get used to frozen fingers, bloody knuckles, balancing unwieldy loads, and doing it all with a positive, ” ain’t this great to be out here” attitude. My family likes to do the things that I do to an extent. But they are not as maniacal about the outdoor pursuits as I am. So I have always taken that into consideration as I try to make these outings as pleasant as possible. I am sure many of you have had similar experiences with getting the kids to the mountains or the beach. But I will tell you one thing, every loaded up day on my back was well worth the smiles of my family. Being a Sherpa has been well worth the while. Someday, it will probably be round two with grandchildren. I am hoping the back holds out. Otherwise, I may have to go to the Tengboche Monastary for some guidance by the Tibetan monks to encourage me to keep hauling and keep smiling. Thanks for reading.