Do Not Go Gently…Part 1

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

A year ago, when my husband turned 70, he decided that he wanted to take up skiing again. Our last family ski trip was in 1989 and while he has occasionally waxed sentimental about skiing, I never took him seriously. Golf, arthritis and unadulterated fear has kept me from any illusions about skiing again. But like a lot of Baby Boomers, my husband was reflective on his birthday and decided that he had no desire to just slide into old age. He said he wanted to experience the excitement of skiing and if he got hurt, well, so be it. Of course, all I could imagine was him with his casted foot propped up and me fetching things for him every time he rang a damn bell.

But I secretly admired his gumption so I humored him through the “Ski” magazine subscription, then the purchase of ski clothing, and finally, his first ski trip. I could not go with him as I was in physcial therapy for my back but I casually mentioned that I’d go with him this year (note to self: don’t let your mouth write checks that your body has to cash). But I figured that one trip from Scottsdale into the cold climes of the Sierra would convince him his dream was folly. No such luck. He has become a ski nut.

The early part of this winter brought no snow to the Sierras. I was not disappointed. But now precipitation reigns and my casual comment has come back to haunt me; I’ve agreed to go skiing. I look at it this way – I’m in decent shape, I still have some spirit of adventure, and, let’s face it, I’m not ready to admit that I can’t do something anymore. My husband was so excited at the prospect of our trip that for his birthday he took me to Ski Pro to buy me a parka. And since then his every trip there has netted me some little “gift”: gloves, ski shirts, goggles, a ski mask, three pairs of socks, and after-ski boots. I did have to go with him when he insisted on buying me ski pants. I want to say at this point that trying on ski pants is the winter equivalent of testing out bathing suits. It completely goes against common sense for a middle-aged woman to try on clothes that make her look fatter. I’m not sure that even my Spanx are going to help me avoid the Michelin Man look.

My friends think I am completely nuts. They have brought out every story about every friend who has ever gotten hurt on a ski run. I’m getting such supportive comments as, “Is there a good hospital in Mammoth?”, and “Do you want to take my Hunger Games trilogy to read in the hospital?” My neighbor, Pat, who is very athletic, went skiing last week after a seven year hiatus. I knew she would offer me some positive perspective and encouragement. So the day after her return I anxiously asked her how it had gone. She looked at me with that middle-distance stare usually reserved for mental patients. “It was horrible”, she said. “I was frightened the whole time. I skied scared every day.” Her hands were still shaking. Great. This was not the reinforcement I was seeking. Maybe I AM nuts.

Today the car is loaded and we are ready to go. I did an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical machine this morning which I’m sure is going to make all the difference when I’m at 9,000 feet. Or not. I’ll let you know.

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