Heated air filled my lungs as I stumbled over runaway roots in the moist dirt. My sun-kissed hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail so that sweat would not gather around my neck. The roasting sun smiled upon my family of five as we trudged through the welcoming branches and disappearing path on the west coast of Maui, Hawaii.
“Nothing says traveling without adventure.” At least that is what my dad always said, so we banded together with damp hair from our last swim and headed steadfast across the mysterious jungle of heat. Three years prior, our family had walked along a forgotten trail to find a rushing waterfall. The sparkling water was plastered into our brains and we would stop at nothing to find this spot again. With my arguing brothers trailing a stream of impatience, we hopped out of our rusted rental car and laughed at danger as we rushed forward.
It was the perfect picture of a band of lost tourists with the cliche flower leas and cameras slung around our wrists. About every two seconds, one would stop to shoot the next victim in the hopes of becoming the family's best photographer. Constantly, my cautious mother reminded us to keep the camera straps around our wrists, but, being the free spirited teenager that I was, I snapped picture after picture with the strap connected to my thumb; no worry in the world.
We explored every crescent in the forest until a small clearing could be spotted in the distance. I rushed to catch up with my dad as the short legged members followed closely behind. His tall figure and excited smile gave me comfort and I sparked up a conversation as we searched for the landscape of our dreams. The hinted trail eventually opened up and we soon found ourselves clinging to trees and small rocks to gaze in awe at the towering escalate of water from across the cliff. The smell of fresh water and happiness filled my nostrils as I whipped out my camera to capture even a glimpse of the exquisiteness. I peered over the edge in curiosity wondering how far forever was. In a slip of movements my camera slid off of my thumb and disappeared into the bush far below.
I stared in horror and shock, trying to spot it along the bushes. My dad appeared behind me and knew instantly what had happened. I formed a disfigured grin trying to figure out how I would regain my hundreds of carefully taken pictures. They were gone forever. Disappointment flooded over me as I realized that this could have been avoided. My dad stared sadly down the cliff as the rest of the band caught up and started teasing me about my loss. Engulfed in arguments, no one seemed to notice as my dad stared down to the bushes and swung his leg over the edge. Just as his other leg was hanging over, I shook my head and yelled, “Don’t do it!” But the determination in his eyes was something I knew well and there was no turning back. The rest of us crowded around the edge as he mechanically moved his trained arms and legs as if he was rock climbing.
“I heard it hit somewhere close,” My dad had said. Suddenly there was a hurried noise, a rush of breath, and then my brothers broke down. The welcoming arms could not be spotted and my jaw clenched so tight I thought it would break. He made a grunting noise to indicate that he was fine but the cries from my deluded brothers tortured my brain. I would later find out that the sand beneath his legs had given out and he was hanging onto branch, striving to survive.
My heart accelerated inside of me, surging blood through my veins in palpitation. Nothing mattered. I stumbled as close as I dared to the crumbling edge. My calm and collective dad moved in silence. It was silence that I feared the most. No cry of joy or call of “I did it!”, just the rushing waterfall and one less breath in the world. It was at this moment that I really understood the meaning of seclusion.
Silence tortured my family as we waited impatiently for a sound of breathing or a calloused hand striving for the top. Imagination was usually a beloved friend, but it rushed back unispecticaly with all of the possible tragedies that could have happened to my father. My usual abundance of hope was pushing away the thoughts as best as the could, but thoughts seem to come to the brain when they are least wanted. I decided to count the seconds, hoping that by thirty I would see those excited blue eyes again.
One - one thousand. The wind softly hummed its farewell lullaby as if to say goodbye to a friend.
Two - one thousand. My heartbeat accelerated until the beating of my heart took control of my counting.
Thump-thump. Silence engulfed nature as if it was a mouth-watering snack.
Thump-thump. Seconds streamed by.
“You know, sometimes you all worry about me too much.”
Then a body.
Before I could stop to think, I was engulfed in a tangle of arms and legs as my family embraced and tears of joy ran down our faces. Tension had waved farewell and the tourists were back in there rusty rental car, driving forward to their next adventure. Safe.
Up until this point in my life, I had taken family for granted. No one very close to me was dead or dying and I had always felt that family would be here forever. That day, my eyes opened up to what the world really has in store for us. Now I make sure to take the time and tell my parents that I love them, to give them a hug just because. I learned that you never know when death might be hungry and to always take the most out of every opportunity. My family has always been important to me and now I realize that the space in my heart left for them will never fade, but they eventually will. The special bond made between my family has only grown and although the found camera brings laughter every time it is mentioned, I will never forget how I almost lost one hundred photos and, more importantly, my dad.