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Turning Tides: Free Fall

As told to Leah Gebber

I’m a strong woman, but I didn’t know how I’d manage ten days in the Great Outdoors, with nothing much more than a backpack, a flashlight, a Swiss Army knife — oh, and my family — for company. But, as I reminded myself again and again in the weeks leading up to our Family Adventure, as I liked to call it (better than Temporary Fit of Insanity with Hefty Price Tag), drastic situations call for drastic measures.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

And our situation was drastic. Our eldest son, Nate (aka Nosson), had dropped out of yeshivah four months earlier. He spent his days sleeping and his nights hanging with a group of friends who reeked of alcohol and stale sweat and probably worse if I could identify it. I’m not going to go into the long and painful journey we’ve traveled with Nate over the last couple years.

After Nate comes Rafi. Barely 13 months Nate’s junior, Rafi has always idolized his brother. Until he dropped out of yeshivah and grew his hair long. Then Rafi wanted nothing to do with him, refusing to even pass him the ketchup at the supper table. After Rafi is Debbie, whose world is her friends and her diets and her shoes — always another pair of shoes. And then there’s Chaim, our youngest; he’s turning eight. He was born with a bunch of physical disabilities. After years of therapy, they’re kind of under control, but he’s weak and his muscles spasm every so often. Chaim adores Nate — and to his credit, Nate’s always been particularly gentle with and kind to him. But recently, I’ve noticed Chaim cursing like — uh, like a yeshivah dropout when he loses his computer game. And I found a cigarette in Chaim’s sock drawer.

It seems like when one kid goes off the derech, the entire family disintegrates.

But I wasn’t going to have that. It’s my family, my kids. I was going to fight for them. And that’s why I called the number on the ad I “happened” to see, set up an interview, and went about convincing my husband and kids that we needed to spend ten days together without running water, mattresses, or a roof over our heads (that wasn’t constructed from sticks and leaves). I spent another small fortune on kitting us all out with hiking boots, sleeping bags, and quality backpacks.

The day arrived and we drove three hours into the wilderness, where we met our guide and leader Ariel Fishman. After introductions, we shouldered our backpacks, packed as per Ariel’s instructions, and set off on our trail. That day, we were tired from the long journey, which was meant to have begun at eight, but of course began much later, after Debbie mixed up her backpack with Nate’s and we’d discovered the whiskey and cigarettes he’d stashed at the bottom, had a blowup, dealt with his refusal to come, and finally set off.

What do you do when you’re stuck in the wilderness for ten days? Walk.


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