Some families pass on jewelry heirlooms, property, money, or tightly kept revered cooking recipes. My family passes on stories. Maybe it was because we were not one of the so called “white privileged” people that the Media says makes up the majority of the United States. Whether or not They embellish and lie about that is another thing to discuss for another time, but what I can truly say is we barely had a television in my pre-teen years.
When we did watch something on that small screen it was almost in black and white and had to be educational. We usually passed the time in the evening playing games, reading out loud, drawing, annoying one another, or listening to my dad’s fantastical stories of his youth.
My father would enrapture us in our small living room near the stone fireplace with dim lights after the pheasants went to sleep and only the katydids could be heard outside the open windows. Most of us sat on the floor because there was not enough room on the one couch we had. He would tell us about how he rung the bell of the Tower of Pisa when it said in three different languages not to do so, how he saved a bunch of escargot snails from being eaten and threw them off the ship in the Mediterranean, or how Grandma – mi abuelita – caught him with a bag of pistachios he bought with Monopoly money from a Turk (“It’s good American money. Really! Good American money!”). We would laugh, imagine, and make him tell us again and again. It never got old.
My favorite stories though were the ones about him and his harebrained hiking escapades with his friends or my uncles. One in particular captured my heart.
He was barely twelve years old when he led part of his scout troop off to explore the terrain in the mountains they were camping on. His leader told them not to go past a certain point and warned them severely of the dire consequences of the surrounding region. My father thinking he was the wise and more knowledgeable one of course convinced the younger ones that it would be exciting, and they were more than capable of such surveys.
In their hike back they came to a point where they needed to get down a sloped side to walk more suitably down the mountain before dark. The other boys, particularly the younger ones, did not feel so confident with their skills especially since if they did not do it right, they could end rolling off into a canyon; so my father decided he would show them away.
As he tried to gingerly walk down, his feet slipped and he found himself sliding off the mountain side and over the edge. His friends were yelling and calling out to him, yet above the clamor he clearly heard one soft voice say to him, “Stick your feet out.” My father obeyed and straightened his legs out while he was falling, and his feet caught a small ledge that held his body as the rest of the pebbles and rocks slip passed him into the canyon in which he surely would have died.
Years later when I was not much older than my father was then, I hiked the Mount Lassen Peak Trail with my youth group. We had already gone to the Peak and decided to go off trail to another part. All was fine until we were coming back. The whole area is covered in loose shale rock, and we were holding onto one of the sides of the sloped mountain head. My friend Doug had gone ahead of me about five to seven feet away and held out his hand as I made my way around a group of large rocks that seemed attached to the mountain. There was a slivered crack in the formation to my left and a steep drop to my right. As my hand touched that grouping I heard “The rocks are going to fall on you.” I shook it off as a wild imagination and fear and proceeded forward.
However, it was not.
The whole formation of rocks from about four feet up and down came upon me. I cannot tell you what happened after that because I do not know. All I know is suddenly I was five to seven feet in front of me next to Doug with pieces of rock shale imbedded in my right hand and knee, and I watched the rocks tumble down the side of Mount Lassen’s Peak.
My youth group leader stared at me with his mouth gaping open and said, “What happened? And how did you get there??” At the time I tried to pretend to be the cool teenager and gave some mundane reply and then, “Let’s go.” Although I had a very strong sense of the supernatural act that had just happened, I shook it off as an everyday occurance.
Five minutes later he told me, “You know, I should be telling your parents that your body is buried beneath a pile of rocks on Mt. Lassen right now. You realize that, don’t you?” He and I for the remainder of our way down in the afternoon sun spoke about God’s divine protection and how God once saved my father too when he was kid.
This would be one of many times that God was with us.
Today, I am not so foolish to take for granted what has happened in my family. I see and cannot deny the tragedies and heartaches around the world that have hurt people to shake their fist at God and ask why He wasn’t there for them or their loved ones. I have no explanations and can only empathize with their pain and anger. All I can tell you is for whatever reason, He upheld both my father and I from falling off a mountainside.