Monday, February 24, 2014

Observations and expectations

I spent the past weekend up at Lake Tahoe with family and friends. It was gloriously beautiful, and the conditions were almost perfect. When I first strap on my my boots and step into my bindings at the beginning of the season, I am generally apprehensive. I expect to fall. I don't necessarily mind falling, although these days I am more breakable than I used to be. This trip, however, I somehow had more confidence and skied more fluidly than I had in years.

When I was first learning (barring my very first trip to Utah with Mr. Nearly Perfect), I loved skiing at Squaw Valley, and we were there again this weekend for the boys' benefit. The boys were in ski/snowboard school on Friday, so the adults were together in the more expert areas. We ended up on the back side, and I skied a slope I hadn't tried in years, including a bit that required some fancy work that probably would have reduced me to tears in the past. I told myself, "Well, the worst that can happen is that I slide down on my ass." I didn't.

It was probably my best day on skis ever.

That night my aunts told me that my father loved to ski at Squaw. Maybe he was with me that day, making things just right. At one point I ended up at the top of a mogul run. I hate moguls. HATE them. I heard a voice in my head saying, "Ski, don't cry." I did the run perfectly. I didn't fall.

I wish I could have skied with my father. It would have been so wonderful to laugh with him, to have him smile and wait for me down the hill. I probably would be a much better skier, too, if he had started me as a young girl.

I was thinking also about how my cousins said that if he had raised me, I probably would have ended up a fishing guide at Tahoe. I said that no, I would probably have been a wilderness MD. I know Eric would have supported me in doing whatever I wanted to do. My life would have been different, certainly, but I am so very like his family that it's eerie. In as much as I struggled to find common ground with my mother's family, it is the opposite with my father's family: I belong effortlessly.

For example, my 93-year-old grandmother still speaks three languages fluently (and my great-grandmother did as well, of course). A few weeks ago, my grandmother told a table mate of hers while conversing in German: "You speak German with an Italian accent." She is blunt and a perfectionist. My father's family is also very artistic: they are painters and singers and actors. My grandparents sang opera semi-professionally. When I told my aunts that I have a Ph.D. in art history, they said, "Of course you do!" They have been to all the places I've been. They collect what I collect. They have the same interests. I am not the fish out of water, after all. It is an incredible relief to be able to breathe, to know that the jagged mismatch is not complete.

My father's family and I even have the same personality quirks, communicate the same ways, and have the same anxieties. It has made all the difference in the world to be told, "Your father would have loved you so very much." It breaks my heart that he lived only four hours' drive from here, and that I found out who he was too late, too late. I am having some difficulty coming to terms with anger on that count.

If only I could have spent one day skiing or fishing with him, hearing his voice, sharing stories. I love that I am his mini me. I am extremely proud of him, that he followed his dreams. I have been a wanderer, just as he was. We both ended up in beautiful places, and it is serendipitous that they were so geographically close; it is tragic that our paths crossed only in dotted lines.

There are some things I can do; some things I am quite finished with now. There's no skating over things with me. I don't work that way.

No more pretending. I need equal partners. We are all humans; we will all make mistakes. I will not chase after people anymore. Meet me halfway, or meet me not at all.

It feels so good to be able to say that.