Shortly earlier than leaving on a trip to Greece along with his youngsters, 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,” accessible on Amazon and Kindle. A whimsical Christmas story may also be accessible Nov. 7 on Amazon and Kindle, and on his upcoming Touring with the Fates weblog. His electronic mail deal with 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 as we speak.”
“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 possibly can journey lighter to the mainland and the island.”
This struck me as an obscene luxurious and an unbelievably spot-on reward.
Nafplion, a southern seaport city on the Peloponnese, was our base for the subsequent week of this journey to Greece with my three grownup youngsters, John, Nikos and Maria. It was a simple 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 once I run STOP indicators,” he picked up shortly on rural Greek driving etiquette. “I’ll decelerate a bit of, but when I cease we’ll get rear-ended.”
Nafplion is only a brief drive to Agamemnon’s palatial compound at Mycenae, the place historical kings gathered and agreed to mix their armies for the Trojan Warfare that was concerning the worth of copper and tin – or, for those who want the romantic fantasy, to save lots of the stunning 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’d later jot down in a photograph e-book as a miracle, if not a Miracle.
I had final been to Nafplion once I was 19 and now needed to share its magic with my youngsters. I recalled a younger curly haired Stathopoulos wanting to breathe historical air dashing up 999 steep steps alongside a winding precipice.
The Palamidi fortress stood on the prime of the small mountain like a battered outdated big, most fascinating to my teenage self for the methods it was damaged by time.
I remembered standing on the prime of the cliff trying down over orange tile rooftops to the ocean. Teal water within the horseshoe bay gave solution 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 checklist of issues to do with my youngsters. They shared my ardour for journey, for his or her Greek roots, and for the panoramic view we might get from the highest. Additionally they knew this was our final journey collectively.
We began midmorning to get the climb in earlier than the solar received too sizzling. Nikos was tempted to dash up the hill for the joys of the run, however he hung with us for the higher pleasure of camaraderie and taking within the wildflowers and rocks and views alongside the best way.
Twenty steps up, I paused to absorb Nafplion from just a bit above avenue stage. 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 tremendous strains and stored the thicker ones. That was extra seemingly.
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 all over the place, particularly these adorned with shiny 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 constructive.
“You don’t must rely for me,” I informed him. “Simply benefit from the view.”
“The counting occurs behind my head. It doesn’t distract me. I solely listen once 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, not like those that had given me peace the evening earlier than. Was I this off form?
“Don’t wait, I’ll meet you on the prime,” I informed the children, however they paused every time I finished to breathe. Quickly I began dropping my stability on one leg, catching myself with the opposite. I thrust my left arm out the best way I used to do with each arms to maintain stability.
At first I discovered it humorous, odd, no matter you wish to name the feeling of a chook 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 youngsters trying again at me extra usually 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 had 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 a couple of steps to the place I slumped on a rock towards the cliff wall.
“No, I’ve climbed it as soon as. I need 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 youngsters vanished across the subsequent bend up the mountain. I sat with my again towards 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 once I had a working physique, and an island out at sea evoked a time simply three weeks earlier once I had desires for the longer term.
Fifty steps from the underside I discovered the best napping rock, a stone slab the size of a coffin and extensive sufficient that I wouldn’t roll off it if I fell asleep.
I clasped my arms behind my head and shut my eyes beneath tall thin-crowned pine bushes. Daylight dabbed my eyelids. A pair younger youngsters got here working 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 have got stunning youngsters.” They appeared like they had been about eight and 10 years outdated, excited to be climbing what I gathered was the largest hill of their lives thus far. “You’ll wish to hold them to the within on the best way up.”
“Did you hear that?” she requested them and so they ran laughing up the hill forward of her. The sky above me by way of tall bushes was dappled blue and white, and two crows circled excessive above.
My thoughts remodeled the crows to falcons and I contemplated what number of Greeks, Venetians, Turks, Franks, Moors, you identify it, who known as Nafplion residence 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 conceitedness – main Sisyphus to mutter beneath his breath, “You’re one to speak.”
For this, Sisyphus was condemned to eternally 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 puzzled when the time would come that I’d really feel this manner every morning, and what a reduction it might be the day I let the boulder roll again down for retains.
On that day, my soul would stand on the prime searching over the valley of life and, as they sing concerning the bear who went over the mountain, I’d see what I’d see.
Within the meantime, let me interpret the parable of Sisyphus otherwise. The story will not be about futility. It’s the alternative: 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 together with her ft on the bottom and her thoughts capturing for the celebrities;
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.