WHAT DAD SAID

MAYBE HE DIDN’T EX­PECT TO RAISE A SKI BUM. BUT WAS HE DIS­AP­POINTED?

Skiing - - Focus - By Lee Co­hen Pho­tog­ra­pher Lee Co­hen calls Utah's Lit­tle Cot­ton­wood Canyon home. His work ap­pears fre­quently in Ski­ing.

MY FRIEND BILL AL­WAYS FELT LIKE THE BLACK SHEEP. He grew up in a New Hamp­shire fam­ily of sib­lings and cousins who all carved out re­spectable ca­reers in the “reg­u­lar” world—doc­tors, lawyers, en­gi­neers, etc. But after grad­u­at­ing from Dart­mouth, he fol­lowed a force that beck­oned him out West, where he built a life that re­volved greatly around ski­ing. At some point he shared his feel­ings with his dad, and some­where in there he ad­mit­ted that he’d al­ways felt he’d let the old man down.

I had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. I blew off go­ing to a univer­sity with stature and lol­ly­gagged through my en­tire ed­u­ca­tion, wind­ing up out West just like Bill. I too pur­sued a life that re­volved around ski­ing. I too felt like my dad thought I hadn’t be­come all I could have—like I’d pur­sued a life that wasn’t, in his eyes, the wis­est choice, or the best.

Then one day, when my dad was in his late 70s, I found my­self talk­ing to him about it. We were parked in my drive­way dur­ing one of only two vis­its he ever made to my Salt Lake home. I opened up about the feel­ings I had—that I’d come up short of what he thought I could be, of who he wanted me to be. I fought tears as I broached this new sub­ject with him. I was in my 30s then, and this life­long ac­cu­mu­la­tion of emo­tion was com­ing out for the first time. And maybe my dad’s re­ac­tion didn’t sur­prise me that much. He said that he was never dis­ap­pointed in me, that I had lived the life of my choice and that all he wanted was for me to find hap­pi­ness in it. Any mis­giv­ings he’d had were long for­got­ten.

What a weight was lifted from my heart. I sus­pect lots of guys who end up build­ing lives around ski­ing go through a sim­i­lar sort of ex­pe­ri­ence. There’s some weird guilt that comes with shun­ning so­ci­etal norms to pur­sue some­thing you en­joy. On the other hand, in the case of ski­ing, it’s usu­ally Dad who turned you on to the en­joy­ment in the first place. I know mine took me ski­ing when I was five.

As my dad lay on his deathbed I sat with him, and the last time he spoke more than a sin­gle word was in re­sponse to my telling him that his grand­son, just turned 18, had won the cov­eted Sick­bird Award in his first men’s-di­vi­sion big-moun­tain comp. I know he didn’t re­ally un­der­stand what the Sick­bird Award was, though I ex­plained it to him. “Pretty cool, huh?” I asked him. He strained to agree. “Pretty cool.”

And one day, when Bill was at a fam­ily re­union where all his neph­ews and nieces were en­joy­ing a visit to Utah ski land, one of them said, “Hey, Un­cle Bill, you know, none of us would be do­ing this now if you hadn’t made that move out West.”

Sure enough, my own kid wouldn’t be liv­ing the life of a skier if I hadn’t done the same thing. Pretty cool, huh?

HE SAID THAT HE WAS NEVER

DIS­AP­POINTED IN ME, THAT I HAD LIVED THE LIFE OF MY CHOICE AND THAT ALL HE WANTED WAS FOR ME TO FIND HAP­PI­NESS IN IT.

The au­thor get­ting his son hooked

on ski­ing.

The au­thor (left) with his hooked-on­ski­ing son in the Alta back­coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.