Imagine somebody invented a pill which restores the health of a person with MS to the point just before their symptoms began to show. However, the effect of the pill lasts only 24 hours, and then the person returns to their previous condition. This pill only works the first time. If you take another one, nothing happens.
How would you spend that day?
I would climb into our 20 foot aluminum canoe on a crisp November morning, with my Browning 30.06 rifle in hand, and my brothers by my side. We would motor up Passadumkeag Stream, and they would drop me off across from Big Island. I’d creep along the ancient game path which runs parallel to the meadow. If I didn’t see a deer or even a track, I would still be enveloped by the memories of so many hunting experiences I had there in my younger, healthier days.
Or I might borrow one of my friends’ snowmobiles and set out from the parking lot in Rockwood, on the western shore of Moosehead Lake. Kim, Amy, Zach, and all my snowmobiling buddies would join me. We would eat lunch at Pittston Farms and stop at Raymond’s store in Northeast Carry for gas. We would pose for pictures in front of the cliffs of Mount Kineo before crossing the lake late in the day and completing the ride exhausted, cold, and deeply satisfied.
Or perhaps I would go somewhere I’ve never been, like Paris, Rome, or the Great Wall of China, and spend the day walking around as a wide-eyed tourist.
Maybe I would do something I’ve never done, like skydiving or scuba diving or cliff diving. Probably not cliff diving.
Who could blame me if I declined the pill altogether. I have struggled to come to terms with my limitations, and this 24 hour dalliance could be nothing more than a cruel tease. It might do more harm than good.
But in the end I think I would take the pill, and I know what I would do – climb Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine. Katahdin is one of those peaks that can be ascended by recreational climbers and hikers – no mountaineering skills required.
In 1982, soon after my high school graduation, I set out to climb Mount Katahdin with Kim, my best friend Dave, and his girlfriend Linda. We got within sight of the summit and decided that was close enough. I can’t remember our excuse. We were tired or hungry or thirsty or late for some appointment or a bit of everything. Not one of us stepped up and made an impassioned speech like, “We’re almost there. We have to reach the summit or we may regret this for the rest of our lives.” We didn’t reach the summit that day, and I never went back, and I have regretted it for the rest of my life.
More importantly, if I could climb to the top of Mount Katahdin I would follow in my mother’s footsteps, as I have in so many other ways. In 1956, as a 22-year-old, she climbed Katahdin. Below is a picture of her at the summit. In 1967, two years before she became a quadriplegic, she climbed Mount Katahdin for the last time (second photo below).