This is one of the posts where travel really meets day to day life. So you'll see it both places. Sorry, those of you with a direct feed.
One of the difficult things about being the invalid spouse in a relationship is not actually the part about being an invalid, because I'm not really an invalid. I could be, of course—I could probably come up with enough reasons to sit around and moan and complain and have people wait on me hand and foot and . . . honestly . . . not have very much fun . . . but I'd rather live life to the fullest that I am able, which is pretty full. And so, only slightly more often than I would like to, do I have to take advantage of Ian's kindness and solicitude. Still, it seems a little one sided . . .
In the interests of living life to the fullest, we took Friday off from work (Ian) and horseback riding (me) and went up to Crystal Mountain to ski for the weekend. When I made the reservations a few months ago, it was because this was the first free weekend we had when Ian could possibly get a day off work (his first year is a very busy one). I'm not sure if you all have been reading the snow reports, but it ended up being a fantastic weekend for skiing. Crystal Mountain has the most, and most interesting, terrain close to Seattle, and from 22 February to now they have been hit with 7 or 8 feet of new snow. Basically, after a warming trend beginning in December and ending in mid-February, most area ski slopes were pretty much mud. And now there's a whole new season! This, of course, meant that Saturday and Sunday were very, very full of other people, but the longest lift line we were ever in was about 10 minutes. They're very good at moving people, the Crystal Mountain Resort folks.
We were sobered, though, at Crystal this weekend, because the excellence of the snow for us was just making it all the harder to find the 40-year-old man who went missing there last Tuesday. He hasn't been found. And I just now read that two college boys went missing on Thursday—the helicopter flying around when we arrived Friday morning was searching for them. I don't know if they've been found. Life can't be full without the bitter in the sweet.
Anyway, even though Ian and I didn't ski at all last year, and skied a mere ½ day in both 2009 and 2008, we were pretty fit, and found ourselves able to navigate any terrains we wanted (some more easily than others, as it continued to snow both Friday and Saturday and we were often socked into thick fog) with more or less the skill we remembered having. Ian in particular is a beautiful skier—graceful and fluid, flowing straight down hills, adjusting to bumps as if they're not there. I found myself plowing through more bumps than I'd like to, thighs burning—I felt like I was working REALLY HARD, harder than three years off might signify.
"I need to have a lesson," I suggested to Ian at one pause for breath late Saturday afternoon. "I haven't had one since high school."
"It's true," he said, "a lesson might help, although you don't look like you're working hard. Still, the equipment has changed a lot and someone could probably suggest ways to ski that might be different than they used to be." He looked thoughtfully at me, then said "You don't fall very much. Maybe you just need to fall so that you remember it's not the end of the world."
I was willing to allow that he might have a point. I had recently taken a fall in a riding lesson, on a day when I was having trouble focusing (except for being afraid that I would fall); I went over a jump, landed, and slid accidentally off the side of my horse, rolling onto my back before standing up and brushing off the arena dirt. No pain at all, just a reminder to stay in the moment. It might be true—snow can be soft.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny (and full of boys clomping about the inn in ski boots at an ungodly 7:00am), and though sore, we packed up our car and headed off up the mountain in good spirits. From the very top we could see, 14 miles away, Mt Rainier at its majestic winter finest, glowing brilliant white. Dormant, we reminded each other. Not extinct. Could erupt at any time. Lovely. We decided to start with a short run down to the nearest upper-mountain lift, and I took off into a huge bowl, Ian close behind me.
Swooshing along, feeling good, I suddenly heard my name yelled, then again. I skidded to a stop and looked back up the hill to see Ian far above me, lying in the snow. I watched for a minute to see if he was going to get up and join me as usual. He was moving around, but he didn't get up.
A father and young daughter skied up to him and stopped to see how he was; I began the long, desperately difficult and sweaty job of sidestepping up a steep run on newly waxed skis. Someone called me from a few yards across the hill; would I mind getting out of the way? They were photographing people and I was right in the . . . oh . . . I was climbing up to that guy? Would I like to just leave my skis with them where they would be visible and out of the way, and just hike?
I popped off my skis and started the climb, infinitely easier in just the stiff boots. The father and daughter slid by and the daughter, maybe 9, told me "he was just going to see about getting his skis back on, but he seems okay." I continued to hike, not too worried.
And there was no need to be too worried; Ian's issue wasn't a new one, and, in fact, taking place in the first run, on what looked to be a gorgeous day for skiing, also wasn't new. He had dislocated his right shoulder, which he had done during Fresh Tracks at Whistler ten years before, the first time we'd ever skied together.
I'm not saying a dislocated shoulder isn't an awful thing to have happen to you, and this is the third time for Ian and this shoulder in the last 15 or so years, and so there's got to be some kind of care and rehab, from what I understand, to make sure it doesn't keep popping out for a coffee when it's not convenient. And Ian was obviously uncomfortable with the weird feeling of his arm dangling from threads, and as the adrenaline wore off and the ski patrol arrived to ship him into a luge, it really started to hurt. "I'm sorry to ruin your day," he said. "You can ski some more if you want to."
"Ian," I said in reply, looking him straight in the eyes, "you are the most important thing on this hill to me. We are done, and we're going home. There is absolutely no question."
I saw him off, hiked back down to my skis and went my own way, and I really did have a fabulous, long, exhilarating run. Ian was brought in to the first aid station at the bottom and his shoulder was manipulated into place and his arm tied with a makeshift sling. And then I got to be the one to return his demo skis and our rented poles (oops—forgot ours in Seattle). I got to be the one to go collect the 4-Runner and pull it into the 5-minute load/unload parking zone close to the ski patrol clinic. I got to be the one to help Ian off with his ski boots, and on with his Sorels. I got to be the one who drove us carefully to Maple Valley to have a bite to eat, say hello to the dogs, and convince Mom and Marsh to keep them for another couple days (Ian won't be walking both of them together any time soon). And, perhaps most excitingly, I got to be the one to drive him to the ER so that he could get an X-ray. Even today there have been some things I've been able to help him with. I love it.
As we were walking yesterday afternoon from the ski patrol clinic to the car, though, over slush and ice, my right arm through his left arm, holding him steady, I did have something to say.
"I think I'm going to go with my original plan and have a lesson. I don't really think that falling more is the answer."