I took all of my grandparents into Glacier National Park yesterday morning.
We left at 4:45 a.m. in order to beat the crowds and to be socially distanced. It was beautiful — my one set of grandparents had never been to the park and the other had visited only once, nearly twenty years ago.
I believe that mountains have the power to infuse life into each of us, regardless of our age. (Which is perhaps just one of the reasons why I’m infatuated with them.) I saw that spark of life in each of my grandparents yesterday, but especially in my mom’s dad, Grandpa Rieke.
Grandpa Rieke grew up in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state and lived his adolescent and young adult years exploring and appreciating the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. After completing seminary in 1963, he made the decision to leave the mountains and move halfway across the country to Minnesota and has lived on the plains ever since; yet, he’s always held a love for the mountains and has taken nearly every opportunity possible to escape out west to satisfy his undying desire to be in “God’s country.”
A few days ago, he and my grandma boldly decided to purchase train tickets to Montana and ride out west. Since arriving in the Flathead Valley, he seems to have come alive again. And yesterday I was able to see a glimpse of that adolescent boy again — he was back in the mountains, exploring and inhaling the mountain air he grew up on. Despite the fact that it was barely 6 a.m. when we were driving the Going to the Sun Road, he had more energy than anyone else in the car and wouldn’t stop commenting on everything he was seeing along the alpine drive. After strictly quarantining these past four months, he seemed finally free — it was as if COVID didn’t exist.
I am lucky: I’m in my mid-twenties and these past few days I’ve been able to spend time with all of my grandparents who are currently living and breathing mountain air. And just 36 hours ago, I even had the opportunity to HIKE with them in our nation’s *best* national park. (Not that I’m biased or anything.) How cool is that?!
These last couple of days I’ve been coming to terms with the reality that my grandparents are getting older. (A fact that I’ve undoubtedly known all of my life but has especially been hitting me lately.)
What is more, the even greater reality is that none of us are going to live forever — all of us are aging every second of every day, but I think you know what I’m saying: time with grandmas and grandpas must be appreciated because our seconds are undoubtedly limited.
And boy, I am certainly appreciating this time.
currently lives in Fargo, North Dakota where she works remotely as a Policy and Communication Manager for the First Lady of North Dakota. Photography and writing are a passion that help her better appreciate the details of the world.