by Dorothy Lie
It’s a slippery slope, and I’m falling at exponential speed.
“This is terrifying,” I thought.
As a child, my grandparents made a trip every year from Indonesia to the U.S. to visit my family and bring extra packed luggage full of presents for their only grandchildren living in America. I vividly remember those arrival days when my two sisters and I anxiously waited at the gate, dressed in identical outfits and stood tippy-toed, watching every passenger walk slowly past the doors from baggage claim and gradually proceed up the ramp into the waiting area at LAX. When we finally saw our grandparents, we would vigorously wave, worried that they might miss us.
When they visited, my grandfather, whom we called Opa, (which means grandpa in Indonesian), loved to take us on strolls in the park, as there were several in walking distance from my house. As a tiny toddler, I always struggled with my twin sister to keep up as we ran along, trying to match the pace of Opa, who was 6 feet in height.
At George E. Elder park, we played freely under the cautious supervision of my grandfather. We took turns getting pushed on the swings, endeavored to complete the entire set of chained monkey bars, and scaled the half-spherical cage. When my sister, Dominique, decided to ascend the gray staircase leading to the steel slide, I eagerly followed her, and watched her disappear, slipping down the incline. At the time, I did not anticipate the full length of the fall. As I approached the yellow roof covering the top of the slide, I hesitated, looking down at the bottom, reluctant to make the steep journey to the ground. I turned in defeat to waddle down the stairs, when Opa said, “Bentar ya, Opa tunggu nanti dibawah.” which in English means, “Stop. Opa will be waiting for you at the bottom (of the slide).”
So I slid.
An overwhelming sense of relief flooded my being as Opa caught me just as I landed at the bottom and swirled me around. Giggles of excitement and wonder erupted as I thought back on the new experience.
For the rest of the afternoon, my sister and I took turns going down the slide, and my grandfather caught us every time.
On February 11, 2007, my Opa passed away from lung cancer. About five years ago, they remodeled George E. Elder Park and removed my favorite steep gray slide with the rusty yellow roof. However, almost 14 years later, when I have difficulty recalling my late grandfather’s face, I still remember that phrase as if it were said yesterday.
To any bystander, it may have seemed like a minor event for a toddler; however, at a young age, this little experience made a big impact. My grandfather taught me that whenever I hesitate, or am afraid to try something new, not only can the experience broaden horizons to fortunate serendipity, it also taught me that there are people there to support whatever choices I make, no matter what the result may be.
From the most mundane activities like raising my hand to speak in class, to climbing tropical volcanoes in foreign countries, Opa’s words have formulated a fundamental principle I choose to live by.
In the advent of the season for college and other important decisions to be made, it is imperative for me to remember to be open to new ideas and to keep in mind that whatever the outcome, know that there are other options, and more importantly there always is a reliable support system to confide in, providing encouragement in the best and worst of times.
My grandfather’s legacy has now become the catalyst that pushes me past my insecurities and down paths of endless adventures and opportunities, learning unprecedented lessons along the way.
Whether choosing a new item on a menu, or settling on future plans and aspirations, trying new things and putting myself out there with the overwhelming possibilities of failure or rejection is terrifying, but I cannot limit myself to a future of absolute certainty; instead, I should dare to take the risk.