mosaic background with a photo of Penny and her ski instructor facing each other and skiing

Skiing, Disability, and Love

So here’s a sentence I didn’t think I would ever type: we went skiing as a family. 

I have not been skiing in over twenty years. And then there’s Penny. In a body with low muscle tone and slower-than-average reflexes, she has never had any desire to ski. She didn’t even own snow pants. (Thus the tie-dyed end-of-the-season pair!) 

But. Peter and Marilee and William love it. So we decided it was time for Penny and me to at least give it a try.

We picked the coldest day of the winter pretty much ever. (I’m hardly exaggerating—the wind chill on Mount Washington was -109. Who even knew that was a thing?!?) On the car ride up, I reminded Penny of all the reasons that she would be able to do it even though it felt scary and new: She has great body awareness from physical therapy. She is a great listener who follows instructions. She has good balance from years of ballet. 

What I didn’t tell her was that I shared her fear and doubt. 

But then we got there and we rented the skis and the boots and met the adaptive ski instructor. Penny came in an hour later saying that she was sore. The next morning she said she felt sick. We nodded sympathetically and helped her put on the snow clothes and sent her back out. 

We took shifts staying near her on the beginner’s part of the mountain. Marilee and William were totally willing to hang back and cheer for their sister. By the end, William was riding the chair lift with Penny and her instructor and they were all singing together. 

And then, there she was. Skiing. By herself.

The skiing is not the point. This isn’t so much a story of overcoming odds or Penny’s individual perseverance. It’s about how our kids wanted Penny to be with them in something they love, in whatever way possible for her. About how her ski instructor saw her not in terms of deficits but in terms of assets. About how slowing down on a mountain and walking side by side in ski boots and singing on a chairlift can all be expressions of the patient, gentle, lifegiving-to-all-of-us, way of love that leads to possibility. And, skiing. 

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