“Who do? Who do you think you’re foolin’?”

For Christmas this year, our two older girls chose a day of skiing–for the very first time–instead of presents. So last Friday, I got to take them to cash in. Good deal for me!

I love to ski, but I can’t pretend to be called a skier. Before this, the last time I skied was in February of 1999, when I surprised Elaine and took her to Hood River for her birthday and we skied two days at Mt. Hood Meadows. Before that, it was college. So I was expecting to struggle a little bit, and knew that we had to get REAL lessons for Hayley and Talli. Life being what it is, we knew we had to go Friday, or put it off for who knows how long. So, even though the weather report looked nasty (lots of wind and rain), we left the house at 6:30 in the morning and headed for Hoodoo Mountain Resort (not the best ski place, but the cheapest, and pretty much every resort’s bunny hills are the same. Not to mention the joy you get from having Paul Simon’s song “Loves Me Like a Rock” go through your head all day long.)

One big advantage of nasty weather is smart people don’t come out to ski. So, even though we had reserved the cheap group lessons, my girls got great, undivided attention from ski instructor Martie. They were the only two in the beginning ski group…and my girls were awesome. I dropped them off at 10 am, and had a couple of hours to ski by myself.

Several weeks ago, I was tempted by Liz and Brad and Aaron to join them at Meadows for a cheap night ski. I almost went. I was so close to going. But I didn’t, giving them this response:

Ok, here’s the breakdown in my decision to stay:

50% Only night with the family this week
30% Old and out of shape and my ski gear looks SO early 90’s and how embarrassing is that?
20% I’ve been sniffling and coughing and wheezing for a week, and why make it worse?

To which Brad replied:

Skiing with me is no fashion show. I’m fine as long as you’re not wearing jeans, neon, pastels, or a one-piece suit on a non-powder day.
The exception would be if you ski REALLY good, in which case you can wear whatever you want. ; )

I’ve got my brother’s old ski gear. The jacket is a teal one with pink and purple accent colors.

I thought then that I’d made the right decision to stay home, and after last Friday, that’s been confirmed. Right after I dropped the girls off with Martie, the head instructor dude came over to talk with me. He’d seen me try and help Hayley for a few minutes before the lesson, and felt he needed to make some…helpful comments. After lessons about leaning forward and keeping a twenty dollar bill caught between my shins and my boots (see Brad? See? Just WEARING pastels makes you look like you can’t even ski down the bunny hill), he looked at my skis. And stifled a little laugh.

“Dynamic VR 17’s? Wow, I had some of those. That was a great, great ski back in the day. Had those awhile, huh?”

Yeah.

Anyway, after a lecture on the benefits of parabolic skis, I escaped and hit the slopes myself. After two trips down the mountain, I had done beginner green and intermediate blue runs without much trouble. On run number 3, I saw little black diamond “Show Off” signs to my right. I got to the top, and had a good idea as I looked over the edge: “I’m not back to being ready for this yet.” I didn’t listen to that very good thought, and instead, I got to tell Talli and Hayley an hour later, “Dad went down a run called Show Off…and I didn’t.”

After lunch, I got to ski with my daughters. Ok, back the truck up, let me read that sentence again. I got to ski with my daughters! How cool is my parenting life getting? They did great. By the end of the day, each of them had been brave about the wet and cold, and each had conquered a blue intermediate run. They’ve got the bug. Anybody who could enjoy skiing on a day like Friday is pretty much hooked for life.

So we had a great day. We put on dry clothes, loaded into the van, and started heading out of the parking lot. We’re on the little access road back to highway 22, when I see lots of brakelights up ahead. I see a huge…no really, a HUGE stretch of standing water, with all these SUV’s with great ground clearance carefully making their way through. I’m in a Dodge Grand Caravan. I look farther ahead, and almost at the end of the stretch of standing water, I see a Volkswagen Jetta, hood up, flashers on, obviously stalled after trying to brave the water without the clearance of an SUV.

I worry a little bit.

But I don’t want my kids, especially Hayley, to worry much, so I try to play it cool. I make a quick decision to just go for it as quickly as possible. When we pass the Jetta, and pull out of the water with the engine still going strong, I relax. I even smile. I tell the kids what had happened to the other car, and how I was SO glad we’d made it through ok. Crisis averted!

To quote Paul Simon once again…”Who do? Who do you think you’re foolin’?”

When I make the left hand turn on to highway 22, my stomach got that little feeling it gets when I’m panicked, and those little adrenalin chills started at the base of my spine and raced all the way up and over my head. The power steering was out. Once before, this happened in the snow, on the way to my great aunt’s memorial service, and I know what it likely means: the main serpentine belt has either broken or come off. It ALSO means the alternator can’t charge the battery, and when the battery gets used up, the computer-dependent engine will ungratefully and immovably stop. Optimism tries to rally: “Maybe it’s not really the power steering being out. Maybe there’s just snow built up in the wheel well, and it’s hard to steer. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it. I’m sure it couldn’t be…”

Ding. Warning bell. LIttle red alternator light comes on. Panic stands with its foot on optimism’s throat, its foe vanquished. We’re 50 miles from any sort of town whatsoever, and 85 miles from a town of any consequence. My van is going to die long before that, with the windshield wipers already beginning to slow and the lights beginning to dim. I’m going to be stuck in a freezing cold van with two tired and cold and anxious girls, waiting for a tow truck for who knows how long. But I still don’t want to tell them. I’m trying to let them have a few more minutes, just a few more minutes of calm and peace.

Then it happens. A little sign of God’s care. You can feel free to call it a coincidence if you like, feel free to roll your eyes at the naive little preacher boy, but I saw God’s hand. The junction comes, and I take the right fork in the road to go to highway 20, my way home. I look through the slowing wipers vainly trying to keep up with the rain, and I realize that right in front of us is…a tow truck. A tow truck! Then, there’s a passing lane! I pass the tow truck, turn on the hazard lights, flag him down, and we are saved. No waiting in the cold. Instead, we get a truck driver with a portable DVD player in a warm cab who lets my kids watch The Incredibles.

It cost us a fortune, we got home late, I had to go back to Salem to get the van the next day…but I feel like God put that tow truck there just for us, and I’m grateful.

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7 thoughts on ““Who do? Who do you think you’re foolin’?”

  1. AMAZING! You are a stellar Dad. Now *that’s* a story to remember – you might not be so hip with it at the time, but it’s great martyrdom material (like the time my family went to D.C. when I was thirteen with my old relatives and we got lost and had no map and it was night and . . . well, I should write my own post about that).Congrats to Talli and Hayley (and to you and your rockin’ skiing gear).

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  2. I believe Gregg.Skiing…I remember that word from my pre-kid past. I love to ski… heavy sign. You’re lucky though, pointers from a pro. My first time up I lost a ski getting on the lift and had to get off balancing on the one remaining. My friends who drug me along for the day didn’t cover that in their lets-start-with-an intermediate-run instructions. πŸ™‚ The day ended with ffffffreezing rain which should more appropriately be called ice bullets. BUT there’s nothing better than spring skiing down the back slopes of Hoodoo.Great confidence and faith building kind of day for the girls and their dad. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  3. Great story!!! I’m picturing the awesome teal. By the way, I am not as vain and snobby as my husband – I would welcome friends in any color ski wear :)I’m glad your girls enjoyed their day and that you made it home safely! Maybe we’ll get THEM to come with us next time…..

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  4. Great story Gregg. That panic feeling would have hit me, mixed in with a good amount of anger, and I would not have been as good as you at concealing it from the kids. A tow truck out in the middle of nowhere, with a DVD player and copy of The Incredibles, h’mmm. I can’t recall the last time I heard of such a clear indication that God’s in control in all situations.

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