My daughter and granddaughter just went to get a frappe “for courage to go on.” Courage to go on is necessary at several levels and I don’t remember ever being instructed how to get or maintain that courage.
I have just finished “traveling” with Theodore Roosevelt and his expedition down the “River of Doubt.” (©2005 Candace Miller, Broadway Books.) When Roosevelt, having lost one-third of his body weight on that trip, told audiences about the expedition mapping the river—a tributary of the Amazon in the middle of the Amazon rain forest—people did not believe him. He was so weak from the ordeal it is estimated only 30 of the 1500 people present at his first public speech could hear his voice. His detractors could not believe anyone could survive what he described. Some didn’t.
The former president always carried a narcotic in his baggage on every trip in the event his life impeded the welfare of others. During the latter half of the treacherous trip, TR sliced open his good leg while rescuing a boat from a rapids. The wound became infected in an atmosphere where bacteria lived best. His doctor and companions did not think he would live. Rather than jeopardize his companions, he asked for the vial of poison.
Kermit Roosevelt, TR’s second son, was also on the expedition. It was Kermit who walked with the guide as front men. It was his courage that even the natives admired. It was Kermit who not only refused to obey his father’s request, but was the source of courage to “go on.”
I have been fascinated by the Teddy Roosevelt story and wonder why given all his physical problems he steeled himself and forced his body to obey his will, while his brother Elliott (Eleanor’s father) had everything going for him ended in an institution overtaken by alcohol and a thrown away life. Why one and not the other? Elliott became the family image not to be emulated. But Kermit did just that.
As TR had admitted his brother to a sanatorium fifty years earlier, Kermit’s brother committed him to an institution. Some lines from Candice Millard’s book:
“Like everything else in Kermit’s life, even the great love that had sustained him through his darkest days on the River of Doubt did not so much as shatter as crumble, slowly eroding through years of neglect and betrayal.”
“…Kermit’s dreamy, aimless approach to life….”
“…Kermit’s open infidelity.”
“…his body was so broken and ill-used….”
“Kermit, haunted by all that he could have been and all that he had become….”
“Nearly thirty years after he had used his extraordinary physical and mental strength to prevent his father from taking his own life on the banks of the River of Doubt, Kermit, sick, tired, sad and alone, was too weak to save himself from the same fate.”
I have grieved Elliott and now I grieve Kermit. Why one brother and not the other? It is difficult to “watch” Kermit deal with the savagery and constant assault while in the jungle and then to “see” him so out of control in a less hostile environment. Why could he not stand up to his weaknesses as his father had stood against his? Why an “aimless approach to life” when…?
The courage to go on.
Ability to respond to innate weakness and failure as a catalyst.
Perhaps what we need most is an en-courager—an instiller of courage and one who can and will teach us how to en-courage ourselves.
Debi! Hannah! Pass the frappe.
D. Dean Benton
Benton Quest House
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