The Big Ups and Downs

22 Jul

When I was a kid I loved roller coasters. I mean I loved them. I grew up going to Six Flags Over Georgia and countless midways at the Shrine Circus each year and I loved each moment of flight those glittering giants afforded me.

One hot summer day we took our annual family trip to Six Flags on Coke Day. All employees and their families of Coca Cola Bottling Co got in to the park free and had all the free Coke you can drink. A child’s dream. My parents would only take us to Six Flags Coke Day because it was cheep and there were no lines… a parent’s dream. On this particular visit I was still young, probably about 5 or 6, and unusually tall for my age. All day I begged my Dad to take me on the The Great American Scream Machine, an old fashioned patriotic themed wood coaster, that respectfully earned its name. It looked amazing and I wanted to ride it so very bad. So to the line we went– the very short line– and waited our turn. I was so happy, thrilled to be a BIG girl getting to ride the biggest ride in the park (at that time). When they held up the dreaded measuring stick I was just a little shy of the required height. That could have been the end of my dream but my Dad didn’t want me to be let down or more likely didn’t want to hear me complain the whole way home so he convinced the attendant to let me on the train. What is a few inches?

We climbed in as close to the front of the car as we could get and I snuggled in close to my Dad. For those of you who don’t know him he has quite a belly, so when he pulled to ‘safety bar’ down to keep us secure it caught snuggly on his belly but left a gapping hole between my tummy and the metal. Please note for the horrified parents out there, this was before seat belts and car seats were even part of a parent’s vocabulary. So a poor fitting metal bar did not seem like too much of a risk. The loud swoosh of releasing brakes and off we clicked up the gigantic first hill as we caught the chain mechanism that pulled us up into the heavens. I was thrilled. We crested the peak and for a split second I looked at the world around me amazed. Then we became gravity’s toy as we plummeted down the first hill. At first I felt my stomach climbing into my throat and then I felt the release of pressure of the seat as I became weightless. My thighs pressed again the bar then my shins as I continued to rise out of my seat and into the space between earth and sky. I was floating away like that cherished balloon who escaped the sticky grip of a child. But my Dad grabbed my string and pulled me back in. He clinched his arm across my body clinging to the bar with all his strength. I remember his knuckles turning white and all look of fun drain from his face as he fought against gravity for 3 minutes and won. I was far too young to understand his fear and only later when I saw his bent wedding ring crushed on his finger from his grip on the bar did I sense that there was something wrong with my first big girl ride. He made me feel safe and I loved it. I even asked to go again. He said no.

I have rode countless roller coasters since that day long ago. I have flipped, flown, dropped, in about every way imaginable and I have loved it.

I do hate the trite way people use a roller coaster as a metaphor for life. When you flesh it out does it really work? So why am I willing to go there now? My metaphor is my father’s firm grip when I was unaware of the danger. His willingness to keep holding on even though my pleasure was causing him pain. This was what my Dad did… and I know my Father does so much more. So why do I have trouble trusting Him who created it all in the midst of my ride? Why do I now get panicky mid way through? When it is all over will I ask Him to go again?

Why am I thinking of roller coasters and near death experiences? As I have been processing my mother’s continual decline in her ongoing battle with Ovarian cancer I have been thinking a lot about my childhood, where I came from, and where I need to be going. Perhaps the last four years of our life–the ones when cancer became apart of our daily vocabulary– have been a ride in themselves. Full of ups and downs. The thrill of hope and the crushing weight of ‘news of progression’. Now I am going to have to recant my dislike for the roller coaster metaphor. At least I am right in the fact that it all lasts a lot longer than three minutes.


3 Responses to “The Big Ups and Downs”

  1. Wade & Brittany July 22, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    Becca, I can somewhat identify with what you’ve been going through lately. Its hard to see what God’s plan is with everything swirling around so fast. I’ll keep you guys in my prayers! – Brittany

  2. KellyLawson22 July 23, 2008 at 1:59 am #

    Beautiful post, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing with us. You’re a truly gifted writer!

  3. Kevin July 23, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    speechless. I love you Honey!

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