The Old Man is me. The Kid is my eight–year-old granddaughter Kyndall Faith Knight. The story was written from an experience during a family vacation in the East Tennessee Mountains last summer.
Some of life’s greatest educational lessons can come from life experiences shared on an outdoor adventure with a curious child exploring nature’s vast classroom.
The Old Man always seemed to appear when needed most, but this time he was not the same. He looked a little different. He walked a little slower. With the Old Man, it was always more about what he said than what he did. The Kid liked to hear his stories. Sometimes he spoke boldly about adventures and life experiences and sometimes he talked about Jesus and you knew it was good and from the heart with a quiet message.
Some of the good stuff would come during their walks together. It might be a stroll around the Kid’s backyard or a rugged and steep mountain trail. The Kid felt safe with the Old Man.
Once on a mountain trail there were was a sudden rustle in the bushes. The Kid hid behind the Old Man and felt safe. On a recent mountain trip the Old Man and the Kid left their cabin with walking sticks in hand and began their trek. But the Old Man was a little different this time. The Old Man moved a little slower, sometime limping; but he did not stop. The Kid had never seen this in the robust Old Man. The Old Man was in pain but he didn’t say much. His arms and shoulders were still strong but it was his legs and back that now failed him. He always pushed through it. The Old Man, the Kid and her mom had climbed three mountains together. Years of softball had given the Kid strong legs. The Kid was fearless and became the leader as the trails became tougher.
The Kid knew the Old Man would “never give up,” but he stopped more often and finally had to sit and rest for a while. “Why do you do this? Why do you keep doing this?” asked the Kid. The Old Man paused and reached deep before he answered because he knew he must be honest and true for the Kid.
“I will quote the great Irish poet Dylan Thomas,” replied the Old Man. “’I will not go gently into that good night.’ What do you think that means?” he asked. The Kid replied in a strong and clear voice. “He will not rest until he fulfills his quest.”
The Old Man set up straight, so amazed by the Kid’s response. He stood, walked with stick in hand, revived. “Come on,” he said. “We’ve got this.” They took the hill together.
The Kid’s powerful words had given the Old Man his strength and he was glad, glad the Kid was his friend. He would “never give up” and he would be strong many more days. And, when he needed something extra to get him through a tough time, he would think of the Kid and he would be strong because of her.
Arkansas State University
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