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Monday, March 10, 2008

Snowbird Misadventures

Playing in the background: Anthony Bourdain, "No Reservations"
Meters swum today: 1700

Every now and then I get this feeling maybe my family shouldn't go skiing. People with my genetic lineage tend to share a similar thing with forgetting what they're doing and getting fascinated by, oh, say, a cloud, and speculating on the structure of a developing cumulus in the outer stratosphere while the light turns green behind us and somebody starts to honk. Hey, that cloud looks just like President Reagan! Oh. Sorry...

Anyway, this tendency combined with high altitude, bad weather, and of course the sheer drama of hurtling down a mountain strapped to a pair of pointy plastic structures and no brakes can kind of be dangerous. I've had any number of spectacular wrecks, usually because I decided to do something amazingly stupid like go over a five-foot jump with no clue what was on the other side (a cliff? A tree? The mind boggles...) However, the only serious injury I ever took, a knee sprain that still bothers me and lets me know whenever it's gonna rain--took place on the bunny slope when I was doing nothing more interesting than trying to crawl under a rope tow. Okay, so it was moving. Did I notice that? No, I did not. Oh look! A cloud!

So my mom and dad, and his older brother and some other friends and family members, were up in Snowbird, Utah this week, hotdogging down the double diamonds. Incidentally, my dad is 70, and I think his brother is five years older. I wasn't there due to a collision of circumstances, but I could have been and then this would be funnier. Some kid skiing very fast plowed right into my dad, who plowed into his brother, who plowed into the kid. The whole mess rolled downhill about a hundred yards, one of the kid's skis came off and hit my uncle in the knee, my dad fell over and hit his head, and the kid was...completely unharmed. Not a scratch.

My uncle managed to limp away, though his ski vacation was over at that point. My dad told my mom that everything was fine until this morning, when she noticed he was slurring his words and couldn't hold a pencil. So she schlepped him off to the hospital. They think he has either a concussion or possibly had a small stroke. This is cause for concern because he had an aneurysm a few years ago. He had a CT scan that showed a reassuring "no abnormalities" and might have a MRI later, but my sister just talked to him and he seems to be fine. He has a hard head. He had to raise me, after all.

Am I annoyed at him for saying he was fine for two or three days when he had a headache and double vision? Not really, I did the same thing after being knocked cold during a barroom fight in Birmingham, England (long story, that.) After the incident with the moving rope tow I kept insisting to the ski patrol that I was fine and if they'd just help me up I'd be on my way. I remember being flat-out mortified when they called an ambulance. Course I was fourteen, the prime year for being flat-out mortified by practically anything. After another spill and a sprained ankle off the coast of La Jolla, California, I told the ER docs that "No, really, I don't need any pain meds." Joan, being a lot smarter than me, said, "Don't listen to her. Bring everything you got."

There's a peculiar Scandinavian thing about needing to have everything Fine At All Times. Even if the Nazis are bombing hell out of Oslo, you tell the kids that you're sleeping in the basement just for fun and not to worry about the loud noises. (Did the Nazis bomb Oslo? I have no idea.) My sister calls it The Tyranny of Fine.

Case in point: Having not heard from my folks since the ski trip began, my sister called their cell phone and a friend of theirs, Steve, answered. This is halfway normal; you're as likely to find Steve and Norma hanging out at my folks' place than you are to find a gang of cats around my place. Steve's people are from Norway. Ours are from Iceland. That's the frozen hunk of rock off the coast of Norway. But I digress. Steve wished her a happy birthday and asked her how she was. What was the weather like down Vegas way. How her husband was (having married into this family, he's now as accident-prone as the rest of us and broke his hip about six weeks ago. He's already back at work, scooting around in his wheelchair, telling everybody he's fine.) After some chitchat, Steve said, "Well, I'd put your mother on the phone but she just took your dad to the hospital." Uh, what was wrong? "Oh, nothing, he's fine, he just hit his head." Uh, how? "Oh, no big deal, just a high-speed collision on the double-diamond off the Gad II chairlift."

Oy vey. Or should I say uff da?

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