Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trying to Keep Up

It was almost 4PM and here I was, surveying the landscape below and trying to figure out a safe passage home. I had almost forgotten what this felt like.

I have become a half day skier for the past several years. This resulted from a combination of factors, not the least of which was that most of my old ski buddies were now literally old and unwilling, or unable, to withstand the rigors of a full day on the slopes. The snow was almost always better early in the day, so there was no compelling reason to force myself and my skis to struggle with the flat light of late afternoon.

But this past weekend I was in the company of one of my friends who did not take growing older easily. Not that he hasn't had his share of reminders that he is not quite the man he used to be, especially since doctors removed various parts previously on his inside. Yet he has always had this ferocious desire to compete and an unparalleled relentlessness . On one occasion I thought I was heading out for a leisurely bike ride with my friend and our wives. Within what seemed like seconds, I felt like I had wandered into the middle of the Tour de France, as my friend accelerated up the first hill and then looked back at me, wondering why I was breathing so hard and lagging so far behind so soon. And so I should have been forewarned when we began our ski adventure in the early morning hours.

Oh, one more thing. A little more than 6 months ago, one of my friend's hips was surgically extracted. This was to be his first day attempting to ski since then. Whereas a sane and rational person might have been tentative in approach and limited in  duration of activity, I don't think either of these thoughts entered into the brain of my friend.

From the first, he pushed himself and the device that had been inserted in place of the old ball and socket. As the hill was relatively empty, there was little time to relax between runs.  Morning turned to lunchtime, and my first not so subtle suggestions that maybe it was time to pack it in for the day. My comments were met with a brief shrug of the shoulders and a clear statement that he was fine and fit.  How could I be the one to say I was too tired, that my legs were too weary and that my thoughts had already turned to the couch and a little rest?

By early afternoon, our wives had left our company for alternative pursuits, having had more than enough to satisfy their appetite. Left on our own, my friend promptly requested that we head out for more. And, if anything, his skiing got stronger as the day progressed. While I was fading quickly, there was  nothing but a boundless energy beside me.

Finally, it was time to quit, but only because I indicated I was needed at home to prepare for the party we were hosting that night. Reluctantly, my friend took off his boots and packed up.  I had barely survived the day on the hill and had taken more runs than I cared to count.

The only indication of my friend having any response to this activity came that night. While the party raged around him, he nodded off. Whether it was boredom with the company, or fatigue finally settling in was hard to determine. For the sense of keeping my ego intact, I prefer to believe it was the latter.

As the weekend ended, my friend said that we had to get together again soon for another ski day. I wonder if I can get him to replace his other hip before then, so that at least I have a fighting chance to keep up.

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