Shortly earlier than leaving on a trip to Greece along with his children, Peter Stathopoulos of Burnsville discovered that he had ALS. Upon returning, he wrote 15 tales concerning the journey to protect recollections for his household and himself. The first of those stories appeared within the Pioneer Press in July 2018.
He has compiled the tales right into a e-book, “TRAVELING WITH THE FATES,” obtainable on Amazon and Kindle. A whimsical Christmas story may even be obtainable Nov. 7 on Amazon and Kindle, and on his upcoming Touring with the Fates weblog. His electronic mail tackle is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right here is Chapter 9 of “TRAVELING WITH THE FATES: Vignettes from a visit to Greece.”
“Erato, the place do I depart the important thing?”
The angel spoke, “You possibly can hold the important thing with you.”
“We’re leaving Athens at present.”
“Sure, I do know, however we rented the house for the entire three weeks,” she mentioned. “We figured you and the kids would possibly wish to depart your suitcases right here in Athens so you’ll be able to journey lighter to the mainland and the island.”
This struck me as an obscene luxurious and an unbelievably spot-on present.
Nafplion, a southern seaport city on the Peloponnese, was our base for the subsequent week of this journey to Greece with my three grownup kids, John, Nikos and Maria. It was a straightforward drive from Nafplion to a lot of Greece’s most compelling historic websites.
It was particularly straightforward for me: John drove whereas I sat within the passenger seat, my proper hand already too far gone for the stick shift. Life occurs quick. In any case, John’s 5 years navigating Montana’s switchback mountain roads made him a greater driver than me, good hand or not.
“Don’t fear after I run STOP indicators,” he picked up shortly on rural Greek driving etiquette. “I’ll decelerate a bit, but when I cease we’ll get rear-ended.”
Nafplion is only a quick drive to Agamemnon’s palatial compound at Mycenae, the place historic kings gathered and agreed to mix their armies for the Trojan Warfare that was concerning the worth of copper and tin – or, when you choose the romantic fable, to avoid wasting the beautiful Helen from her Trojan kidnappers.
And it’s a day journey, taking the good distance, to a village excessive within the mountains that hosted a shock I might later jot down in a photograph e-book as a miracle, if not a Miracle.
I had final been to Nafplion after I was 19 and now needed to share its magic with my children. I recalled a younger curly haired Stathopoulos desperate to breathe historic air dashing up 999 steep steps alongside a winding precipice.
The Palamidi fortress stood on the high of the small mountain like a battered previous big, most fascinating to my teenage self for the methods it was damaged by time.
I remembered standing on the high of the cliff trying down over orange tile rooftops to the ocean. Teal water within the horseshoe bay gave strategy to darkish blue seawater, and I imagined waves of troopers and migrants rowing lengthy boats to those shores over 1000’s of years.
Now 36 years later, this rocky hike to the citadel was close to the highest of my listing of issues to do with my children. They shared my ardour for journey, for his or her Greek roots, and for the panoramic view we’d get from the highest. In addition they knew this was our final journey collectively.
We began midmorning to get the climb in earlier than the solar bought too scorching. Nikos was tempted to dash up the hill for the fun of the run, however he hung with us for the larger pleasure of camaraderie and taking within the wildflowers and rocks and views alongside the way in which.
Twenty steps up, I paused to soak up Nafplion from just a bit above avenue degree. Ten steps later I paused once more, gazing at a rampart winding up a smaller hill throughout the road and some hundred ft away.
I hadn’t observed that rampart my first time right here, or perhaps over three many years I worn out the nice strains and saved the thicker ones. That was extra doubtless.
One other 20 steps or so and I finished to admire the flowers and aloe bushes that appeared like fancy cacti to my Minnesota eye. Weeds captivated me in every single place, particularly these adorned with vivid little yellow or purple flowers that prospered within the desolate warmth.
“What number of steps?” I requested Nikos who, along with being a strolling GPS, comes with a built-in counting machine.
“Not even 100?” I squinted into the solar.
“Greater than 50,” Nikos spoke the optimistic.
“You don’t have to rely for me,” I advised him. “Simply benefit from the view.”
“The counting occurs behind my head. It doesn’t distract me. I solely listen whenever you ask.”
Each time we rounded one other curve up the hill, I finished to gaze out on the metropolis and the ocean, gasping for breath.
Numbers weren’t comforting me on our hike, in contrast to those that had given me peace the night time earlier than. Was I this out of form?
“Don’t wait, I’ll meet you on the high,” I advised the children, however they paused every time I finished to breathe. Quickly I began shedding my steadiness on one leg, catching myself with the opposite. I thrust my left arm out the way in which I used to do with each arms to maintain steadiness.
At first I discovered it humorous, odd, no matter you wish to name the feeling of a fowl about to fly off a precipice. The upper we climbed, the extra I swayed with every step. The trail grew narrower, the drop steeper, and I observed my children trying again at me extra typically with concern of their eyes.
“What number of?” I requested the lean human counting machine once more.
“562,” Nikos mentioned.
“You guys go forward,” I beat again the a part of me saying we have been already greater than midway and I ought to carry on going. “I’ll catch you on the backside.”
“I’ll keep right here with you,” Maria walked down just a few steps to the place I slumped on a rock in opposition to the cliff wall.
“No, I’ve climbed it as soon as. I would like you to do it. You haven’t any concept how a lot this implies to me. I’ll be within the café down the road.”
We had handed a small café with out of doors picnic-style tables a block from the foot of the hill. I had a chilly orange Fanta soda on my thoughts. Orange Fanta shortly grew to become my daytime drink of selection in Greece, the place by midday my physique was a sandy thirsty seashore.
My children vanished across the subsequent bend up the mountain. I sat with my again in opposition to the rocky wall propping my chin up with each arms admiring the rooftops, tall white sailboats and small fishing boats. A lone freighter took me again to after I had a working physique, and an island out at sea evoked a time simply three weeks earlier after I had goals for the longer term.
Fifty steps from the underside I discovered the best napping rock, a stone slab the size of a coffin and broad sufficient that I wouldn’t roll off it if I fell asleep.
I clasped my arms behind my head and shut my eyes underneath tall thin-crowned pine bushes. Daylight dabbed my eyelids. A pair younger children got here operating up the steps, the mom scolding them in her British accent to decelerate.
She stopped and requested me, “Are you OK?”
“Higher than I’ve ever been. You might have stunning children.” They appeared like they have been about eight and 10 years previous, excited to be climbing what I gathered was the largest hill of their lives up to now. “You’ll wish to hold them to the within on the way in which up.”
“Did you hear that?” she requested them and so they ran laughing up the hill forward of her. The sky above me by means of tall bushes was dappled blue and white, and two crows circled excessive above.
My thoughts reworked the crows to falcons and I contemplated what number of Greeks, Venetians, Turks, Franks, Moors, you identify it, who known as Nafplion dwelling over the centuries studied the universe mendacity on their backs proper right here.
They lived, they ate, they cherished, they died.
Having climbed midway up the hill solely to return down for a nap and assume momentarily about heading again up for one more shot, I assumed concerning the Greek half-god Sisyphus who pissed off Zeus along with his vanity – main Sisyphus to mutter underneath his breath, “You’re one to speak.”
For this, Sisyphus was condemned to endlessly push a boulder up a mountain, solely to have it roll down simply earlier than reaching the highest. His torment was to get up the subsequent morning, each morning, and push the rattling factor up once more.
I questioned when the time would come that I might really feel this manner every morning, and what a reduction it will be the day I let the boulder roll again down for retains.
On that day, my soul would stand on the high searching over the valley of life and, as they sing concerning the bear who went over the mountain, I’d see what I might see.
Within the meantime, let me interpret the parable of Sisyphus in another way. The story is just not about futility. It’s the other: Each time we push that boulder up the hill, we plant new seeds of life.
I image eternally John, Nikos and Maria mountain climbing to the highest and to the Palamidi fortress, gazing out over the ocean and imagining their future as I had at 19:
Nikos along with his soul within the clouds whereas completely having fun with his time on earth;
Maria along with her ft on the bottom and her thoughts capturing for the celebs;
And John a bit of every, with a character so welcoming that he by no means will get an opportunity to purchase his personal drink at a bar.