The Essay is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
I’m looking for people to ski with. So many of my ski buddies have quit the slopes – pretending that 60 is the new 40 is tough.
It’s difficult to be with a sixtysomething without the conversation veering toward arthritic joints, high cholesterol, sagging skin and poor memory – and let’s not forget diminished vision and hearing.
One of my few remaining ski friends and I recently went skiing midweek in Collingwood, my haunt for the past 40 years.
I made sure to pack my readers so I’d be able to decipher the menu at the lodge, my regular glasses just to see, and of course my contact lenses, which I use only when skiing.
The last time I had put my contacts in was the last time I’d skied, 10 months earlier. My friend who thought this was such a good idea also brought some sample contact lenses.
We planned to get on the hill by the crack of 10 a.m. Having had our breakfast early at the hotel, we were stationed in front of the bathroom mirror, she at one sink, I at the other, with our instructions on how to insert contact lenses sitting on the counter between us.
I have always been impatient, but now I am more decisive in my impatience. I gave up after 15 minutes, having ruined two right-eye contact lenses, and decided I was going to wear a small pair of glasses that I’d brought with me, just in case, under my goggles.
Forty-five minutes later, my friend, who had inserted one lens, decided she’d be skiing with one contact lens only.
She kept going on about how the brain is so clever that it can adjust to you wearing one contact lens, and compensate. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
After one run my glasses were so fogged up I couldn’t see anything. My poor vision was better than my fogged vision, so I made another decision: to ski without any glasses.
This meant I couldn’t see any definition in the snow, but being a good skier, I could deal with any unexpected terrain, I hoped. Thanks to the weather there was a great amount of snow, and thanks to the resort it was excellently groomed – there was no ice, not that I could see anyway.
We got through it without any serious stumbles, but the hardest part was yet to come.
It had been a cold day, and when it was over our plastic boots had become very stiff, requiring a strong grip to separate the tongue from the boot to get my foot out.
My arthritic fingers were not up to the task. I have a “trigger finger” – the joint of one finger first locks into position, then snaps open, accompanied by excruciating pain.
There I was, hunched over beside the car door with my foot stuck half in and half out of the boot, pulling on the tongue, when my finger locked.
Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew then why most people my age had given up skiing.
I finally got both ski boots off, my cold winter boots on, put on my glasses and marched into Jozo’s, a longtime après-ski watering hole I had not visited for a few years.
It was as packed as ever, but the average age was now early 60s. I stood there, staring.
Many had decided to go the silver/white route or, in the case of some men, the bald shaved head with a small facial hair focal point. Grey, bald and beautiful, I say, but it looked like some kind of time warp.
I could see all these same people in their 20s, gyrating to the loud band or sharing a ski story.
Here we all were 40 years later, fogged-up readers at the end of our noses after entering from the cold outside, and not a chance we could hear what anyone was saying over the music.
Most were sitting, too stiff to gyrate after skiing. Everyone looked their age, though some were trying to look cool by wearing funky hats above their withered faces.
A few cougars at the bar were being hunted by salivating thirtysomethings with a glint of hunger in their eyes. Interestingly, the cougars didn’t tend to be grey. They sported blond streaks on perfectly coiffed hair with pumped-up cheeks and oddly-shaped lips. They must have been the ski bunnies of old.
The rest of us, who had just taken off our hair-smashing helmets, had ruddy cheeks from the cold. We wouldn’t want to be taking any selfies, though our wrinkles did have a healthy glow.
I made my way through the room, found a seat and fell into the camaraderie of Jozo’s. With a smile, I realized that the mellow, satisfied feeling over a cold beer after a long day skiing was still the same. Or maybe it was just my vitamin I.
Years earlier, a bunch of us were skiing at Whistler, B.C., and a seasoned ski instructor was on the gondola with us for the first ride up of the day.
“Did you take your vitamin I?” he asked.
We looked at each other with puzzled expressions, and he said: “ibuprofen.”
That guy is my hero today.
Liz D’Andrea lives in Toronto.