Sky Rock. It sounds like what it is: a Native American name given to a large, protruding rock that is stacked high into the sky. I had heard about Sky Rock in passing when I went to visit my family in West Virginia. I had passed the road that led up to the rock several times and yet never lifted my turn signal to make that left. But my last trip to West Virginia was different. My father had just been hospitalized again and the outlook seemed bleaker than ever before. My husband and two dogs joined me in my van and we drove 30 hours from Austin, Texas, to Morgantown, West Virginia. My father has been struggling with his health for years now, but my trips home prior to this one broached the subject more gently. I would ask to cook dinner for the family, but never really insist. By the same token, I would ask my father to join me for walks or hikes, but always leave the request open-ended and optional. This trip was different.
%Gallery-161128%I first saw my father and mother in the hospital room, with the hospital’s lead cardiologist hovering over my father’s bed, explaining his prognosis with as much sensitivity as he could. I was exhausted from the drive and hardly able to combat the dizziness that accompanies this specific sort of stress. When the doctor left the room, I spoke firmly and with authority to my own parents.
“I’m in charge while I’m here. I’ll be cooking every meal. No questions asked. I didn’t drive 30 hours for questions.”
Once he was discharged from the hospital, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on the kind of food we simply never had around growing up: fresh produce. I prepared every meal with pleasure, relishing in the lack of resistance I faced in doing so. On my second day there, just one day after my father had been released from the hospital, I decided to finally visit Sky Rock for sunset.
“You guys should come,” I announced, unsure on whether or not my father was actually in any condition to walk along anything other than a straight and smooth path.
My parents surprised me when they agreed. We led our two dogs and their two pugs, into the car and went on our way. We parked the car at the bottom of the Sky Rock hill, known also as Dorsey’s Knob. A beautiful wall outfitted with mosaic art was the first thing we saw to our left. To our right rolled a steep drop leading to a pond surrounded by lush Appalachian greenery. We began the journey up the hill. My mother was nervous at first and instructed us to continue up the hill without them; she said my father’s heart couldn’t take the stress. He, however, was feeling restless after having spent a week in the hospital and he insisted on following us up the hill. As a friend recently pointed out to me, I might have inherited my streak of perseverance from him.
Once at the top of the graffiti-clad boulder, we lounged alongside our joyful dogs and consumed the expansive beauty of the colorful West Virginia sky at sunset. The West Virginia sky smears pastel-like colors across its canvas on every clear night. This is one of the things I love about West Virginia – the fact that the glowing sky at sunset is inspiration enough for a man like my father to climb the path to Sky Rock just one day after his release from the hospital.