Princess: Getting over getting older
The Aspen Princess
So I’m in Steamboat for my mom’s birthday, and she got a new alpine-touring setup as her big gift from my dad.
Mom turned 72 years old and seems to be aging in reverse, kind of like I was describing in the column about my own birthday a few weeks ago. I guess I have a pretty good role model.
As avid road bikers, I knew my parents would love skinning up the mountain. It has the same “this is torture, but I love it” vibe, the same head-and-lung-clearing mindlessness of pedaling for long distances. Even better, it’s a very low-impact sport. But you guys know all that.
Of course my dad went right out and bought a super-nice, lightweight setup. Mom rolled her eyes and announced that she didn’t want to spend money on fancy new equipment.
“I’ll just use my tele gear,” she declared.
My first question was, “Are you sure?” And the second, “You know how to tele?”
I took them to West Buttermilk for our first outing. I wanted to make sure my dad understood how to use his Dynafit bindings, which I recently heard referred to as “Dynafiddles” on account of how tricky it can be to get into them at first. I myself am no ace at getting the risers up and down in the back and sometimes have to fiddle with those also in a way that makes me feel like I have developmental problems.
“I hope I remember how to do tele turns,” Mom announced as we slugged up the mountain. Just short of the summit, she said, “This really is kind of tedious.” See, that’s where I learned how to say what everyone else is thinking.
I almost fell over when Mom threw down a series of gorgeous telemark turns as if she’d grown up in the Swiss Alps and knew no other way of getting down the mountain.
It wasn’t going so well a year ago.
Mom was in a lot of pain due to arthritis in her shoulder and nothing was helping. It got to the point where everything seemed to aggravate it and her activity became limited to walking and hiking with the dog.
“I’m getting old,” she told me one day, her voice small and defeated.
“Mom, you don’t age like that overnight,” I reminded her. “Just last season you were ripping around on your snowboard. You’re benched because you’re injured.”
It’s usually my dad who’s injured. He’s the guy who has a penchant for flying off his bike at high speeds and hitting hard objects. He’s the guy who, after hip-replacement surgery, managed to break his femur only to have to go back in for more surgery to fix the damage he’d done to the procedure that was supposed to fix the original damage. And we all know the story about how he was hit by a truck two years ago and miraculously survived.
Dad is a willful animal who is able to tromp through these so-called “bumps in the road” as if nothing ever happened. He jumps back on the bike even though he has like a million broken bones and has torn through every ligament in his body so that the only thing that’s holding him together is his skin. He’s like a bag of broken bones with leg muscles that somehow keep him upright, and he can still bike 75 miles like it’s nothing.
Mom is a lot saner than that, and being in so much pain was really hard on her. It didn’t help to see a lot of her peers start to deteriorate from the onset of old age in the form of various diseases, injuries and other limitations.
Ryan and I began to talk more about the inevitable time when we will have to take care of our parents and what that will require. I think we are both pretty committed to doing whatever it takes to be there for them. We are both spoiled children, though in very different ways, but the fact remains that we are still very dependent on our parents, even as adults. We talk to them almost every day, we share everything with them and we lean heavily on them for support, both financially and emotionally. For the first time in our lives, I think we became more aware of the fact that that will eventually come to an end. Mortality really sucks, aging can be really unpleasant, and unless you’re lucky, dying is the worst.
Fortunately, that’s not something we have to worry about today.
Mom had shoulder-replacement surgery with phenomenal results. As soon as she was able, she started going to the gym. She announced that she really liked the gym. Soon she was going to the gym every day.
Finally her surgeon cleared her for all activity, and she was like an animal who’d been let loose from a cage. Soon she was calling me every day with her laundry list of workouts. “I went cross-country skiing on the pass, and then I took the dog for a hike up Emerald, and then I went to the gym,” she’d say, sounding giddy rather than exhausted.
The first time she went snowboarding (yes, snowboarding, at 72) was a revelation. She called me right away, so excited she could barely get the words out.
“You were right!” she squealed. “I’m not old!”
So yesterday, she was like a kid in a candy store as she chose her first-ever pair of fat skis and was equipped with an alpine-touring setup that was so cool it made me a little envious. She had no problem with her “Dynafiddles” and seemed to know the whole uphill-to-downhill conversion protocol cold.
“It’s so easy!” she screamed as she went hurtling by me, making turns on a dime.
I guess the old adage is true: It really is downhill from here. And apparently, that’s a really good thing.
The Princess is so proud of her Queen. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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