Few books affect me as deeply as Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild. This book reminds me how beautiful life can be. In his nonfiction account the writer investigates the story of a young man from a well-to-do family that hitchhiked to Alaska and unintentionally died alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.
During one recent Saturday night my family asked me to look after my 96 year old grandmother. At the same time I was engrossed in this book and did not want to stop reading to entertain Grandma. So I decided to bring my grandma up to speed on the grim story and then read aloud my next chapter to her. I didn’t realize how powerful that chapter would be for the two of us.
It was the perfect chapter to read with her because it focused on a deep relationship that McCandless had with an 80 year widower named Ron Franz. Franz lived alone in an apartment in Salton City, CA when he picked up a hitchhiking McCandless. Franz took a liking to McCandless and wanted to help him straighten up his life.
Emotion flooded within me as I read of the strengthening relationship between the two men. In the book the two men conversed about living adventurous and meaningful lives. Franz wanted to convince Chris McCandless that wandering aimlessly in life is wasteful. And McCandless wanted convince Franz that secure, habitual and conservative living damages the adventurous spirit within men. It was a great debate to read aloud with my grandmother.
The most profound moment that evening came when the author writes of Franz’s special request to McCandless. Ronald Franz explained that he had no children or siblings to carry the family name after his death. He asked Chris McCandless if he could adopt him, if he would be his grandson. Afraid of that level of intimacy McCandless shrugs off the proposal by changing the subject.
Franz’s proposal reminds me of how special a relationship can be between a grandparent and grandchild. Franz desperately wanted to have a relationship similar to what my grandmother and I had. Too often many of us forget the value of simple things like family.
The memory of reading this chapter to my grandmother with tears in my eyes reminds me how beautiful life can be.