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Come What May, Come What Will…My Grandmother was born in 1921. She’s old. I visited her a few weeks ago and she reminded me, as she does on a regular basis, that she was ready to die. She’s old, she’s tired, and she doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone as an “old lady.” She gives me this same speech each time I visit her. I smile, choke back tears, and give her the same speech that I always give her when I visit: “…I know Gramma, but I’m not ready for you to die…” Then she gets mad, “…do you think this is fun for me? Laying here in bed all day…in pain…” Then I get mad, “…but Gramma, you haven’t told me all your stories. I need those stories for Anna (my 10 year old daughter), for Anna’s kids…” And then she laughs and looks away, “…Bah, you’re just a kid…” I’m actually not a kid. Though some may disagree, I’m actually an adult. And I also have an old Father. He was born in 1928. I’m watching him right now as I write this sentence. He’s got his right shoe on and he’s been working on getting his left shoe on for the last 25 minutes. I kid you not. He gets winded. He needs to rest. Usually when he rests, he falls asleep. Not for long, not even a cat nap really, he just nods off and then shakes himself awake a few minutes later and tries to figure out what he was working on before he nodded off. Ah, yes, the left shoe. He drives me absolutely bonkers. He’s a curmudgeon. He’s forgetful. It takes him an hour to put both shoes on. He flirts incessantly with waitresses and then tips them a quarter. He forgets where he puts his glasses. He starts telling me one story and that merges into another story, which in turn morphs into two more stories and twenty minutes later he forgets what it was that he wanted to tell me about. He’s in slow motion and I’m behind on everything I have going. I’m busy. I don’t have time to watch him put his shoes on. The longer it takes him to do things the more my blood pressure goes up. The further behind I get. And just when I think I’m about to blow a gasket and scream at him to hurry up, I realize how lucky I am. How utterly lucky I am. He’s got the left shoe on now, but he’s looking around for his hat. It’s next to him on the stool. He’ll find it in about 5-10 minutes. I’m so lucky. I have an old Gramma who I cherish and will never forget, and I have an old Father who forgets everything and drives me bonkers. In a very odd way, it’s a lot like this Team. We are all so incredibly lucky. Yes, some of us forget things, some of us are old, some of us are slow, some of us drive each other bonkers. But in the end, we’re all so lucky. We are all critical parts of an incredible whole. We trust each other with our very lives. We force our families to trust that we will take care of each other. And we do. We don’t always get along, we don’t always agree, but we always remain “we”. This shouldn’t be taken lightly. This should be recognized and embraced and celebrated. So come down to the Granlibakken Hut and celebrate the final 2011-2012 meeting of Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team. 6:00pm at the Hut. Dinner and libations will be provided. Come early, stay late. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to put your shoes on, we’ll wait for you.
Really?...So I was at Anna’s school the other day and a relative stranger asked me if I was on the Stanford Rock search a few months ago. I say “relative stranger” because I just met him the other day. Seems like a nice guy. Hip, super outdoorsy, skier, hiker, climber, cyclist, lived in Kathmandu, etc. etc. So I said that, yes, I was on that search and gave him the standard rough outline, the same sketch I give to folks who ask me similar questions about searches. Then I asked him if he knew the kid who died in that avalanche. “No,” he said and then nonchalantly continued, “but I was out backcountry skiing that day, it was fantastic.” I just stood there looking at him and, like that cartoon character whose jaw drops to the ground in disbelief, I couldn’t believe my ears. I was flabbergasted. Dumbfounded. Finally I managed to stutter something lame like, “…Really? Why?” It was so incredibly awkward. I think he was shocked by my confusion and disbelief because he tried to explain. He kind of back-pedaled, he said he knew that the conditions were dangerous, he knew that there was an unstable layer lurking somewhere down in the snowpack, but…but…but. I just stared at him. I couldn’t believe that he kept adding “buts” to his reasoning. Really? It was that good? The skiing was so incredibly, unbelievably fantastic that you just couldn’t help yourself? You HAD to ski that day? He added little things like he’s skied in conditions scarier than that…he knew where to go…I stared at him. ”Wow”, I stuttered. That was about all I could muster. I wanted to say that no snow is worth that much. No powder day is worth risking your life. I wanted to say, “Dude, news flash, you have two kids and a wife at home…what about them?” I wanted to say that I’ve pulled too many dead bodies out of avalanche debris to go out and ski on “killer” powder days. But all I did was stare in disbelief. Really? So death is not really a deterrent? That unstable layer lurking in the depths is not really applicable to you? Those avalanche warnings that are posted online, that are read on the radio, those warnings are not really applicable for people like you? Experienced skiers…people who know better but go out skiing anyways? Really? Wow.
Election Update 2012…yes, it’s time to cast your vote for the next El Jefe de TNSAR. But before you do, I think everyone deserves to be on the same plane. A lot of negative ad campaigns have been surfacing out there in the media as of late…billboards, CNN, NPR interviews, etc. etc.…and I think it’s imperative to really set the record straight with the two candidates who are bucking for Commander in Chief of this here organization. So, for the benefit of all the constituents, on both sides of the aisle, I decided to cut straight to the chase and find out who these guys really are. Yes, I skipped their respective campaign headquarters and went straight to their wives…for the real story. I utilized a series of scored questions about character, family history, at what age they stopped wetting the bed, genetics, religious background, voting records, and time spent on detention in elementary school. Then I used several Swiss multi-layered algorithms to analyze the scores and now I’m prepared to offer the results. I’ll skip the mathematical formulas…basically it boils down to this: you either vote for Chris “Huggy Bear” McConnell or Brian “Snuggly Bear” York. Those are real nicknames folks. Real pet names used on a regular basis around the house. Forget the shell, the holograms that dwell on the surface. Behind those masks, underneath those superficial personality patinas, the real candidates reside. You’ve got two choices; you’re either in the Huggy camp or the Snuggly camp. You can’t have it both ways, and there really is no gray area here. Time to decide. And, as always, vote early and vote often to make sure you get the results you want. And don’t forget about Board Member positions. It’s not too late to nominate yourself or your neighbor. Think about it….
Say Goodbye Bob…as most of you already know, my probation officer finally caught up to me and I’m off to the slammer. Again. No more newsletters for me, the TNSAR typewriter has been passed on to Geoff Quine. Geoff was so excited about the prospects of newsletter fortune and fame that he worked his intestines into an obstructed bundle and landed in the operating room. That’s actually true. He is recovering now and will soon continue the long and treasured tradition of missed newsletter deadlines, late night ramblings about absolutely nothing (to fill in space when there haven’t been any searches), congenital grammatical weaknesses, complete and utter disregard for tact, painful and poorly placed puns that are not even slightly clever, and annoying allergic ailments to anything alliterative. Yes, Geoff is going to fit right in. Before I sign off for good I’d like to thank Randall Osterhuber, past TNSAR newsletter writer extraordinaire, who passed the TNSAR typewriter to me many moons ago. Randall gave me some great advice about writing the TNSAR newsletter. Unfortunately, I forgot 65% of what he said, flat out neglected 10% of what he said, did the complete opposite of 15% of what he said, and still have no idea what the remaining 10% has to do with writing a newsletter. And last but certainly not least, I’d like to sincerely thank all of you out there who are still awake. It’s been a real honor to represent this Team via pen and ink. Though I have cursed every single monthly newsletter deadline (including this one), I have no doubt that I will miss this job and all the fun I’ve had with it. Thanks for all the laughs, the tears, the inside jokes, the camaraderie, and all the many, many, fantastic memories.
All choked up and nowhere to go…