This is one of my favorite photos not because it’s the Grand Canyon; it’s because of my aunt Kathey. She saved my life that day! It was a typical start to wake up to our dog Cody needing to go outside and use the potty. Plus, when you camp right across the helipad, you have helicopters flying overhead taking visitors to view the Canyon from high above. I am standing there with Cody, and all of a sudden, there’s a loud crashing sound behind me about 50 feet away. You can hear a helicopter’s engine struggling! The hood that covers the engine compartment came apart from the helicopter. Let me tell you when they say you see your life flash in front of you when you think you’re going to die; it’s real. Our day gets even better after we have breakfast and head out to the overlooks.
I did not die that day!
We arrive at one of the many overlooks in the South Rim of the Canyon. For some reason, a bunch of people was laughing and pointing to something down below. My aunt Kathey heads over and looks down. The next thing I know, she’s frantically waving for me to run over to her. I run over and looked down, and there is this little old lady with bright pink hair in a bright pink bathrobe and purple polka dotty slippers with feathers sticking out of them. She was sliding down the trail to get to where you can take a fantastic shot. She was on the path, and people just walked on by, so Kathey says, nephew, get down there and help her. Now my plan was to get her back up to the top. She had other plans, LOL. I get down to her and say hi maam, my name is Michael isn’t this place beautiful? In the deepest tone, I hear sonny, I’m not that old; I’m 87 years old, she says. You can call me Pauline. I said can I help you get back up the hill? She says, hell no, my kids won’t let me do anything. I’m here to see the Grand Canyon, not the inside of my $500,000 motorhome! I’m going down there to get my photos! My kids are just waiting for me to die so they can get all my money!
All of a sudden, I can hear two women screaming in the distance it sounds like they might be in the parking lot, mom mom mom! They did not think to look over the edge and did not know she was there yet. So I said, that must be your kids. She replies it is, and I am going down there. Will you help me, Michael? I reply, let’s go before rangers come out here and stop use because of your beautiful slippers. I am sure they’re not very good to hike in. I laugh, she laughs, and she replies, I love you! My late husband always complimented me on my shoes.
Here we go, by the way, this woman was in such good shape her problem was just balance and her slippers! She grabs my hand. It was so soft to the touch but had a stronghold of my hand. I said, wow, your hand is strong. She replies, I’m a pianist. We get down to the edge, you can still hear her kids screaming, then it stops, and I hear Kathey yell, is everything Ok? Her kids are here. I tell her I am bringing Pauline up, and she’s Ok.
It took longer to get back up, so I got to hear her life story. She was Polish, and her late husband was her oxygen to her lungs! She and her late husband had owned a bakery in New Jersey for 60 years. They had two daughters and three grandkids. She loved God, and she loved her husband and miss him like missing tying your shoes! Whatever that means. So we kept going, and let me tell you, we were sliding the whole time because her slippers had no grip! I got in front and kept pulling her up.
We were getting closer to the top. When she stepped on my feet! I was holding her with one hand. I started to slide off the trail and kept sliding with her on top of me! Somehow I reach out for something I saw in the corner of my eye. It was Kathey’s hiking stick. She was standing there and reaching it out to me! I could not believe she was there. Thank God my aunt Kathey was fearless and strong. I held on with Kathey’s help. We made it to the top with just a couple of scratches!
Her kids ran over and started yelling and crying. I told them to calm down. She was safe, and she got what she wanted, right, Pauline? She says, Salley, you should marry this man! He complimented me on my slippers! I laugh; Kathey laughs. Everyone around us starts laughing and cheering! One daughter looked liked an uptight lawyer, and the other had pink hair, of course; and was covered in tattoos. They were probably in their early forties. The one with pink hair was Salley. Salley was stunning. Her eyes were the greenest of greens, you could imagine. She was at least 6 feet, maybe taller. Her skin was golden brown. They calmed down and thanked Kathey and me for coming to their mom’s aid.
I told them it was my pleasure we had a great talked. Her daughter said I bet she probably told you we are horrible. She is always complaining we won’t let her do anything. I said, well, are you? She replies her mom is too old to be out here. I said, well, she’s getting up there. If I was in her shoes, I would be just like her and go out with a bang! You never know when your time is up! Kathey chatted for a little longer with them.
A man walked up to me and said, that little lady just saved your life, you probably did not see what she had to do to get her stick to you quick. I asked what happened? He starts out by telling me. That once they could see our heads, that’s when I slipped and started down the hill. He says that badass little lady grabs her stick. Jumps down rolled under the railing slid about twenty feet to the trailhead on her butt then rolled over, she landed against the rocks rising on the other side of the trail stopping her momentum! Then yelled your name and reach out as far as she could. It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. He asked me who she is to me? I said she’s my aunt Kathey!
By Michael Vance Pemberton
Based on a true story.
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Quote from aunt Kathey. “always be kind to strangers you never know they could be your next angel!”
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