Number 33

“I’m headed up Denali for a shift. If anything happens, I have the Outward Bound van stashed at _________’s place and the key is tied to the rear axle.”

Those were some of the last words I heard Mike say before he went up on Denali and died.

And today, of all days, my son popped in unexpectedly and when he threw his keys on my kitchen counter, I saw the number tag from that van that Mike had stashed in Talkeetna when he flew in to the glacier.

There’s no mistaking an old COBS key ring

I didn’t know it still existed.

My breath caught and I reached for it without a thought, mesmerized; flooded with feelings: physical stirrings, an emotional rinse; just a moment wherein I was completely taken over with unconscious memory.

For a brief moment I was transported twenty years back in time and I was outside that van, about to unlock it, and open the door onto the pieces of Mike’s life that were tucked away waiting for him to come off the mountain.

The smell that bowled me over when that door slid back was a combination of chain saw two-stroke gas, dirty socks, mildewed rain gear, and wood stove smoke. It’s the smell of my memories of Mike.

As I held the 33 in my hand, my brain was breathing in the fragrance of him.

And my sweet sweet boy said, “Do you want it mom?”

Never one to take anything from my generous children, I tried to hesitate, I imagined saying no thank you, and yet “yes” flew from my mouth completely unhindered.

And now it’s mine.

3 thoughts on “Number 33”

  1. No desire to make your story mine. But my step dad worked for OB for years, and his Denali stories were some of my favorite. This just reminded me of him. Thank you for sharing your memories. I appreciate the bittersweet.

    Like

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