I’m not a big gusher.
As in, it would be possible for me meet one of those Hemsworth boys and hold it together. Like, I might giggle a bit, but not too much. Bruce Willis might be a challenge, Elle MacFearsome, too. But it’d probably go okay.
The same cannot be said for the moment I met Alyssa and Glenn Azar.
Alyssa is the youngest Australian to climb Mount Everest, Glenn’s her dad. He’s a human mountain, six-foot three, powerful, robust, with disarming dimples and a ready smile. By comparison, Alyssa’s tiny. And yet, her diminutive frame is a crafty disguise for a resolute power and resourcefulness that must be extraordinary. She is a force of nature that on this day, sat calmly in the studio for our podcast This Glorious Mess, mulling over her successful ascent of Everest before considering what’s to come in her short, but amazing life.
Listen to Alyssa talking about preparing to climb Everest:
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect on meeting them.
To be really honest, I wasn’t expecting Alyssa or Glenn to join us for This Glorious Mess at all.
The tentative plan was for my co-host Holly Wainwright and I to chat about Alyssa’s achievement. We’d say, ‘Wasn’t it great? Isn’t she fabulous!’ But then, ‘How does that happen? How does your kid, because she’s only 19, actually have the chutzpah to climb the biggest mountain in the world?’
Actually, Alyssa may well have done it as a 17 or 18-year-old, but circumstance and tragedy put an end to both assaults. There was the avalanche in 2014, killing 16 sherpas and closing the mountain. And the earthquake of 2015, decimating the region and claiming at least 22 lives.
Andrew with Ben and Alyssa in the Mamamia office.
Alyssa was there for both tragic events. Alone. And this year, she went back to try again. Holly and I were thinking, "how would you let your child do that?" Isn’t fate waving its bony finger at you, suggesting this might not be your thing? How many signs do you need to know this is not for you? And that’s pretty much where the chat was going to go.
Things changed as soon as Glenn and Alyssa walked through the door.
After gushing through the 'hellos', I got a lesson in perseverance and parenting that had me literally flying for the rest of the day. Yes, Glenn is an adventurer, but it is Alyssa who’s the driving force. She had first told her dad she wanted to walk Kokoda when she was in Grade 3. And the story’s not really what you’d expect: it’s not just about a determined young woman climbing to the earth’s highest summit – which would be enough – but a short lifetime pushing for more. And, a father facilitating and challenging along the way with a brilliant perspective on kids and their dreams.
Glenn said that he was much more fearful for him than he was for Alyssa. "My belief that the fear that we experience as parents is a selfish fear. It’s a fear about what we will lose...which is totally acceptable.… I’d feel sorry for myself, for her mum, her grandparents all the family friends. But I wouldn’t feel sorry for her. Because I knew that this was the choice that she had made."
It was stunning in the old-fashioned sense. I was gobsmacked! Plonked on my butt and given a few home truths about why, as parents we should see the most “unlikely” dreams as possibly realities.
In fact, just about any dream could be a reality with a daughter like Alyssa. The hardest part for a parent, that thing of letting go, turns out to be much easier than I imagined – that was the biggest surprise.
Listen to the full conversation with Alyssa and Ben here:
What would you say to an eight-year-old who told you they wanted to walk Kokoda?
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