The Bridge to Somewhere Else

As a bachelor, my dad was stationed in Stuttgart and then Nuremberg, Germany, with the U.S. Army. While there, his mom and sister came for a visit. They traveled to several places including Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle is built on a rugged hill above a village. There are scenic paths, bridges, and waterfalls around the castle.

Visitors can take the bus from the parking lot to the castle or they can walk the path up the hill. They chose to walk up. As they walked, they approached a fork in the path. One path went across a bridge. My dad doesn’t remember it being a very long bridge, but it was quite a ways down. Knowing that grandma was afraid of heights, my dad joked that they were going to have to take the path over the bridge. Grandma didn’t pick up on the teasing. In the moments before she reached the bridge, she braced herself for the walk across by squaring her arms in front of her, clinching her fists, shutting her eyes, and taking a big breath. Then she marched quickly across the bridge.

After reaching the other side, my dad called out to her that the path to the castle was the other fork. He joined her, and before he brought her back across the bridge, she braced herself so she could overcome her fear and make it to the correct part of the path.

I can imagine the mix of laughter and vexation that my grandma may have felt as they continued on the path up to the castle. I can feel the emotions my grandma had to go through to make herself brave because I also have to make myself brave when heights are involved.

Like my grandma, I try not to let my fear of height stop me. For example, there was lots of self-talk as I rode a donkey up a mountain trail in Santorini, Greece, and pep talks from my husband when we hiked the narrow switchbacks of Mt. Timpanogos in Utah. Most of the time the preparation works, but when it doesn’t, I’ve learned to be kind to myself.

I wonder what other things my grandma did despite her fear of heights.

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