We were on our way to Winter Park. The year was 1984 or 1985. Flying up interstate 70 in the Honda for the first day of Eskimo Ski Club. Kids came in busses from all over Colorado. Some parents even put their kids on trains which rolled to within sight of the lift to send them to learn to ski. My dad drove me up himself. For 16 saturdays. Each winter.
It seemed like a long drive to me at the time, though in the grand scheme of things, it was not. Just over 2 hours from home to snow. Line up under the color for your class. Green for beginners. White for experts. When a class was filled, an instructor took us out. The best instructors went fast, and we were always there early.
Dad came along with the class. Helped the instructor wrangle us kids and got free ski lessons right along with me. After class he’d pull some smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the pocket of his powder jacket and we’d scarf them on the lift as we headed out to practice what we had learned.
Dad worked with kids back then. First a PE teacher at a private school in Michigan, then director of a summer camp in Colorado. He helped troubled and or abandoned kids find their way. Kids who didn’t have dads with Hondas and 16 saturdays to learn to ski. As we drove he was listening to a book on tape about counseling or some such thing. I was staring out the window, already wearing my ski boots in the car.
“Dad,” I said, when the book stopped and he handed me the cassette and I snapped it into the plastic alcove in a binder sized book of tapes. “Will you remember me in a year?”
“Of course,” he answered as I handed him the next tape. He slid it into the deck; it popped in and began playing.
“Will you remember me in two years?”
“Of course I will.”
“Will you remember me in 10 years?”
“Michael,” he said, turning the volume down so it was a whisper above the rush of the Honda along the interstate. “I’ll always remember you. I’ll never have a chance to forget you, because I’ll always see you every day.”
He went on, saying things that the books he read and the seminars he went to said would bolster a child’s sense of stability and a bunch of other stuff designed to reinforce the feeling that I was loved and safe and taken care of. I wasn’t really paying attention. After a few minutes, I just said, OK and started to drift off to sleep as he turned up the audio book and chewed on his fingernails as the mile markers ticked by outside.
Suddenly my window filled with a solid rock wall and I jolted awake as we blew into a tunnel through the mountain side. Dad looked over and smiled.
“Dad,” I said. The tunnel lights flashed over our faces in the car.
“Awwww Daad!” I said, frowning on the outside and beaming with satisfaction within. “YOU FORGOT ME ALREADY!!!!”