The Branch

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Over and over the little boy tried, but each time he failed. Unfortunately, the lowest branch of the backyard apple tree was still just out of his reach.

With one last mighty attempt, the boy leaped up high again. His little hands held onto the branch, and for a moment, it looked as if he’d make it. But his grip wasn’t strong enough.

Falling to the ground and landing flat on his back into a pile of leaves, the tears the five-year-old had been holding back finally started to flow. Looking up at the insurmountable task, he was going to quit. Then encouraging words drifted down from above, “You can do it, son. I know you can. Just try one more time.”

Try he did.

And early one Saturday morning, the little boy climbed his first tree.

As children do, the little boy grew up into a man, and throughout his life there was always another higher branch to work towards, some just out of his reach. A college degree was elusive for many years, but with encouraging words from his wife, “I know you can do it,” he finally received a diploma.

Later in life, he wanted to write a book but thought it to be an impossible task — a task far out of his reach. Again, words of encouragement came, this time from his editor, “I believe in you.” When finished, he wrote not one book over the next year but two.

Throughout his life, the little boy always reached for the next branch, tried, and failed. And each time that he fell back to Earth, he wanted to quit. But words of encouragement were always there to urge him on to get back up and try again. More often than not, he succeeded.

If you fail and get knocked down, pick yourself up and try one more time. It was a Life Lesson he’d learned a long, long time ago while growing up and climbing their backyard apple tree on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

That was then; this is now.

Over and over, he tried, but each time failed. Unfortunately, the next branch of the backyard apple tree was just out of his reach. With one last mighty attempt, he leapt up high again. His hands held onto the branch, and for a moment, it looked as if he’d make it. But his grip wasn’t strong enough. A lifetime had passed since his first tree climbing, and time had stolen the strength out of once youthful hands.

Falling to the ground, landing flat on his back in a pile of leaves, tears of the sixty-five-year-old started to flow down the face that had been etched with time. Looking up at the insurmountable task just above, he was going to quit, and a quitter was something he had never been before.

He felt sad.

Then came encouraging words drifting down from high up in the tree, “You can do it, Papa! We know you can. Just try one more time.”

Try he did.

And early one Saturday morning the little boy, now a grandfather of two, successfully climbed the backyard apple tree once again … possibly for the last time.

Returning back inside with the Girly Girls an hour later, I watched as they scampered off into their bedrooms for another epic zip-line Barbie play session.

After retrieving an ice pack for my throbbing head, I headed towards my comfortable recliner thinking, perhaps, I should leave tree climbing to those much younger. Leaning back, I thought about another apple tree so many years ago and smiled. Then again, perhaps not.

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a Heaven for?” After missing the limb twice but grasping it on the third try, I now have a different version of that famous phrase: A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s encouragement from family for?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]