When I was a kid I learned how to climb.
My natural instinct seemed to be to climb any tree that passed my simple analysis as a tree-climbing tree. It was liberating to me. When the trees were mastered, I would find ways to climb onto the roof of my home. I loved the challenge and especially the enhanced view of my little world.
But the best things to climb were mountains and my dad was an expert.
What began with simple climbs of large boulders and learning how to look for holds, soon graduated to larger challenges with ropes and pitons. I still pride myself on knowing what a caribiner was long before they became ubiquitous.
As any climber knows, the cherry on the top of a good climb is the chance to rapel down, a sort of harnessed backwards dancing which eventually brings the climber to the safety of the ground.
The key element to successful rappelling is the skill of the belayer.
A belayer is the climber's partner, who typically applies the friction at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, removing the friction whenever the climber needs more rope in order to be able to continue climbing or descending as the case may be. A belayer is the safety net between success and failure. I could not fall because my dad was literally my anchor.
I was always very secure in knowing that my dad was my belayer. He was the strongest man in the world and I knew that in his hands I was safe. No doubts. Ever. He was a mountain himself.
My rock is crumbling. My security is jeopardized.
My father is ready to pass on.
I'm not ready to be off belay.