Reaching new heights
with sledding adventure
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 2:28 AM
With the temperature near 40 outside and a schedule relatively free of commitments, I decided it would be an opportune time to go sledding with my grandchildren Sunday afternoon.
After we got ready and were about to head out the door, my grandson seemed surprised that I was getting dressed as well and planned to go down the hill with him and his sister. "My other grandpa says he is too old," he commented.
His other grandparents live near a hill that my grandson can walk to, so I could see myself saying the same thing - although maybe not the "too old" part - if the temperature was around zero, I was cozy and comfortable in my recliner or I had what I considered more pressing adult matters to take care of that day.
On the drive to the sledding hill, my mind drifted to thoughts of how different generations can get comfortable in their roles. Then, my thoughts turned to a movie the children have been watching lately on their favorite channel, Disney.
When the animated movie, "Up," first appeared on our television screen, I caught a very few bits and pieces of it while doing other things. My first thought was it was weird as an old man was floating across the world in a house attached to colorful helium-filled balloons.
Kids are known to watch things over and over, thus the second time it was on, I caught more of the story, laughing when the 78-year-old balloon salesman and 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer stowaway confront a very large bird in South America, near Paradise Falls, the old man's intended destination.
After that I was hooked, and the next time I made sure to pay more attention, not just because it happened to be on the screen close by, but because it was such an interesting movie. "Up" has subtle humor throughout, but also some important messages. More impressive, it was wildly creative in ways that still amaze me.
As I became more engrossed in the movie, my palms even became sweaty as the old man and youngster navigate the heights, particularly when they were running around on top of an airship, or zeppelin.
I'm quite certain that my fear of heights has intensified as I have aged. It isn't just due to scenes in movies as I've noticed it in the real world, too, when my wife and I have been in the mountains.
I know the fear is partially manufactured in my head and wonder if age has contributed to that fear. Perhaps, it represents a general fear. People spend a lifetime accumulating material things, building a reputation, finding security; the longer they live, the more they fear losing those things.
Perhaps, we find it harder to get out of our comfort zones not because our bodies are more tired, but because we are afraid to risk what we have built up in our mind to define our lives. Perhaps all the accumulations - physical and mental - are just weighing us down, causing us to miss the big picture.
Originally, Carl Fredericksen, the 78-year-old in "Up," just wanted to be left alone with his memories in the home that he and his deceased wife had built together over a lifetime. However, outside circumstances forced him out of the comfortable role he had settled into. He eventually found himself on an adventure, reaching new heights, to fulfill his and his wife's dream that was postponed because, well, the everyday routine of life got in the way.
As his adventure unfolded, his thinking changed along the way as he confronted life outside his house. Eventually he had to toss the contents and collections inside his house to help his new 8-year-old friend and finally he lost his home entirely. However, by that time, he had experienced enough to realize he didn't need those things he had accumulated over a lifetime; the important things were right in front of his big, bulbous nose.
While the 78-year-old found that you're never too old to begin a new adventure, in the end, the 8-year-old taught him that a memorable adventure doesn't have to be grandiose, such as a balloon flight to the tropical forests of South America; more memorable moments are often the little things we share, such as enjoying ice cream together on the curb.
I may not always be "up" for sledding or some other adventure with my grandkids because I may feel too set in my ways or too busy to join them, but I just have to remind myself what I may be missing.
After all, our adventures to a sledding hill and beyond may be able to help me conquer my fear, which may or may not really be, of heights. On our adventures, even if they involve higher places, I may find I shouldn't sweat over losing what I think I have built up over a lifetime. Instead, the real fear should be waking up one day and realizing I'm missing out on the life right in front of me.