I only enjoyed limited contact with Bob once he left home five years before for boarding school and then college. I was thrilled to be asked to join Bob for an entire summer. Bob had always seemed much older (4 years) -- and not particularly interested in his kid brother, who was somewhat of a loner and underachiever.
That June we took a train to Montreal to board a converted Dutch cargo ship carrying students to Europe at the cheapest fare. The ship did not meet U.S coast guard minimum requirements and was not allowed to sail from an American port. It was packed with several hundred co-ed Canadian and American students who were willing to put up with the two week long boat passage each way across the Atlantic. The accommodations were primitive in the ship's cargo holes, bed racks stacked 14 high only connected by vertical ladders. Ventilation was mostly by going up on deck and caused much sea sickness below. Simple Dutch food was served on long benches. Recreation for the co-ed college age passengers seemed to be drinking Dutch beer and climbing into the canvass covered life boats to meet one another. The few younger than college age passengers, like myself, never exactly determined what was the attraction of these covered and private meeting places.
As we approached the Dutch coast I asked my brother what was our plan. Bob, an excellent athlete and member of the Harvard crew responded --
"We climb the Matterhorn !"
I inquired where and what was the Matterhorn?
"A very high mountain in Switzerland."
I had no idea what that engendered or what was to follow. I only knew my brother had a quest this summer -- to climb the Matterhorn -- and I wanted to accompany him!
Bob cautioned me that we must train very hard. I readily agreed and asked when and where we would start.
"After we visit the Halls in England." The Halls, an English mother and daughter, lived with us during the war.
By July we began strenuous walks along the English coast and into the countryside. These continued and then Switzerland. My 17 year old muscles began to resemble my brother's superb 21 year old crafted body.
By the end of July we were in Zermatt near the base of the Matterhorn, conditioned and ready for the climb. Neither of us being experienced mountaineers, we were required to hire two guides to direct our climb and accompany us. Cloud cover prevented us from immediately starting our climb, but after several days the guides advised us ....... "Be ready."
We began our ascent from Zermatt. By noon we reached well beyond the base of the Matterhorn. Now, Bob and I were secured by a climbing rope to each of our guides. By evening we reached a small cabin built into the the mountain about two thirds of the way to the summit. We ate our dinner and fell into the bed racks built into this shelter.
At 3AM in darkness -- we were awakened and resumed our climb. By 4AM we reached the most difficult part of the mountain, a vertical climb up a rock face to which the guides attached ladders and ropes. We climbed in darkness -- and then into daybreak. By 5PM we were beyond the rock face and on to the glacier above, and walking upon snow cramp-ons.
By 7AM we were on the summit and looked down at the clouds below -- and a good part of Switzerland! We celebrated !! We took pictures and ate breakfast.
All too soon our guides told us we must begin our decent, a necessity to reach our lodging that night, and a necessity if our guides were to guide again the next day. Down we climbed, but the descent went slowly and used a different set of leg muscles. My legs were cramping and no longer reliable, causing me to fall occasionally. My ever present climbing rope reduced that danger -- but still required much caution and patience. That second day we often stopped to rest. By evening, with relief, we reached Zermatt.
I was totally exhausted. However, I was filled with pride. I had accompanied my brother to achieve his quest -- to climb the Matterhorn.
Bob and my connection to him shifted that summer. We became closer and more intimate. As the summer stretched on we shared other unique and wonderful experiences. We shared conversations about ourselves and family that we had never shared before. We came to know one another in ways we had not.
This special connection lasted the rest of his life. We had learned to love one another, not tolerate one another.
I was devastated -- when Bob died -- at age 40.