By Penny Showalter
On October 12, 2009, Don, my beloved husband, died.
His death wasn’t dramatic – we talked one last time and then he was gone.
Come to think of it, the way he died was distinctly atypical for Don, a man whose life was a collection of passions.
Skiing was one of those passions. It became apparent early in our relationship that my choices were limited to becoming either a proficient skier or a hot buttered rum junkie, passing the time at the lodge while he was on the slopes.
In keeping with how passionate individuals operate in the world, Don was absolutely confident my interest in and expertise at the activity he embraced would immediately match his. The first run we took together at Mammoth required over an hour to complete and involved so many falls that at one point I … OK, I may have uttered a phrase or two that implicitly questioned the marital status of his parents when he was born. By the time we returned to the lodge, his back was out, my leg was injured. and overdosing on hot buttered rum began to look like a reasonable plan to me.
As for Don, however, his belief that the couple that skis together … well, Don’s belief that he and the woman he loved (that would be me) would ski together was abated not a jot or a tittle.
And indeed, over the years we had many happy and wonderful times on those ski trips. I got better, but he was terrific. I often saw people stop to watch him.
Because Don almost never fell, the spills he did take were especially memorable. One of those falls occurred when we took the granddaughters on their first ski trip. In trying to prevent one of the girls from falling, Don himself tumbled down the slope, his 6’5″ body and extraordinarily long arms and legs flailing about like a hurricane-powered windmill spinning out of control across the countryside. This time he hurt his back severely enough to spend the next day in bed. The following day, however, he insisted on strapping on the skis and hitting the slopes. Why? It was the last day of the trip so it was obvious to him that skiing was a given. He could hardly walk but once on the snow he was amazing.
When Don became ill, he formulated elaborate plans for the ski trip we would take to mark his return to health. The closest we came to that celebratory trip was the special wedding cake I got him for the Vow Renewal Ceremony we held just two months before he died: a ski mountain with the two of us on the summit.
And that’s how I remember Don – full of passion, taking me to the summit.