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Replacements

Tuesday May 05, 2015

I crawled into the attic, lugging my Volant skis in their travel bag.  I opened the bag slightly and kissed the tips “Goodbye.”  A host of memories flashed in my mind.  My ski boots were resting in the closet to gather dust.  My skiing days were over.  Parkinson’s had won out.

About seven years ago it became a reality.  I had headed down one of Crystal Mountain’s easiest runs and found I was not able to negotiate the hill.  I was like a beginner.  I would ski six or seven turns and lose my balance.  It took several of my skiing friends to me erect again.  But I continued to try.  Oh, how I tried.  Then late in the afte4rnoon I realized I had to be on the bus at 3:30.  The bus was several hundred more falls away.  If I continued, I would arrive at nine o’clock.  The ski patrol put me in a toboggan and sped me down the hill.  In my 35 years of skiing, I had never been carted off the slopes.  It was embarrassing.  Particularly, when I had to face my bus companions and apologize for holding them up. 

By the time we reached Greenwater I had decided that Parkinson’s had won out.  IT had been a good run with the disease on the mountains.  Afterall, I had 13 years of skiing with the Old Fella on my back.  Peggy, my wife, and I had skied nearly every area in the Northwest and had four trips to the Alps in Europe.  Skiing was an important part of our togetherness.  We were real buddies on the slopes. 

I wasn’t about to let my retiring from the slopes pull her off the mountains too.  We agreed that she would continue to go on the weekly bus to Crystal and that we both would go to Sun Valley with the Ancient Skiers.  I would stay down from Baldy but I was determined to find a replacement for the time I spent on Flying Squirrel and Seattle Ridge.

I like to write.  So, I bought a lap top and committed myself to writing while Peggy burned up the hill at Sun Valley.  Each morning I would pat her on the fanny and say, “Ski one for me.”  I would then engage in keeping the spell-check busy.  The replacement worked.  I gave up skiing but I found something almost as challenging in the Toshiba each day.

I know friends who have had to give up skiing because of fear, injury or just getting old.  I am pleased that I was able to handle the snow until I was 77 years old.  I was fortunate to be able to ski all those years without breaking my leg, running into Peggy or hitting a tree.  I look upon it as retiring from the sport, just like retiring from business.  I didn’t leave the business world without replacing it with many mind-expanding ventures.

Giving up is part of living with this disease.  I have had to give up running but I have replaced it with walking.  I have had to give up swimming the crawl stroke in Lake Washington but I have replaced it with the backstroke and a floatation device around my waist that keeps my legs from sinking.  I have had to give up hiking up steep trails in the woods but I have replaced it with shorter day hikes.

I urge my Parkinson’s friends not to give up anything without replacing it.  You can’t beat this disease but you can surely initiate new activities that take into account your changing physical conditions.  My skiing days are over but I have a world of new opportunities ahead of me.  I call them replacements. 

Hal Newsom
Author, NWPF Founding Board Member

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