A few years ago I wrote this essay about my father and I wanted to re share it here. My dad always loved my writing and often suggested I focus on it. He is one of the reasons I started this blog! Four years ago, on Oct 12 2012, my father passed away from complications of dementia. He was 87 years young. I say “young” because even until the end he maintained his child-like sense of curiosity and humor. He was gifted at finding excitement in even the most banal things. He was one of my biggest supporters, always helping me to see the silver lining and to seek the “funny” in every situation. I miss him immensely.
When I was two or three my father taught me how to ski. At first I didn’t love the sport, but I DID love my beautiful red ski boots. Once a shoe lover,always a shoe lover, I guess. I adored their candy red shell, and how it felt to walk around in them with that fun clunky gait. Ba-bam ba-bam. Those of you who have skied know the rhythm of which I speak. The sport grew on me and eventually I learned to really enjoy it. In high school, I followed in my brother’s footsteps and became a certified ski instructor. Other than my current career, this was probably the best job I ever had. It was rewarding teaching people a sport and it felt great to be part of a like minded group of amazing and fun people who remain my friends even today. I also loved the bonding between my brother and me. Over the years I went on family ski trips to Colorado, Utah, Vermont, New York State, Austria, Switzerland, and others that I’m probably forgetting. But the trips that stick out the most in my mind are the ones I took alone with my father. Whether it was a local day trip to the Cleveland Ski Club, to Peak-and-Peak (just two hours from home), or to Park City, Utah, Skiing with my dad was always very special. It gave us time to bond and have fun together. To laugh, share ideas, and also to sit in peace together on the chair lift and take in the beauty of nature. “Look Jilly, isn’t it beautiful?”, my father would say. Somehow being there in the snow, hearing only the swishing of the skis and the creaking motor of the chair, everything else in the world was quiet as if the blanket of snow was silencing the earth into a peaceful lull. I asked my dad once why he loved skiing so much and he said “because we live in Ohio and I needed to find something fun to do outside despite the winter cold.” And then in an exhilarated tone he added “Also, don’t you feel so free flying down that Mountain?!!”. My father skied until he was 85. And the two years he was stuck in the home before he passed away, there was always a Ski magazine next to him. By teaching me the art of skiing my father taught me so much more. How to see the best in something, how to find the good in a challenging situation, how to learn from your mistakes or at least laugh at them, how to see beauty where other people don’t, the importance of silence. But the greatest thing he did, I’m not even sure he was aware of. I had avoided skiing for a long time once my father became ill and especially after he passed away. This past weekend I went for the first time in five years. I was nervous and tried to make excuses not to go but my friends very supportively nudged me on. I sat on the chairlift and looked out. I saw the beauty of the blue sky. The snow covered mountains, the green pines, the frozen lakes. As I sat there, going up the mountain, I could hear the beautiful peace and quiet of the blanketed earth, the familiar sound of the lift motor, and most importantly I could hear my father say “Look Jilly, Isn’t it beautiful?” and for that brief moment he was there with me. By teaching me skiing my father gave me a gift. The gift of him.
Life is way too short. Lets embrace every moment.