I stumbled across my first and only pair of downhill ski boots (a gift from my grandfather) today in the garage. I’ve been moving these boots around with me since I was sixteen years old and have no idea why we are still together. I took a photo of the boots hoping that I will be able to part with them knowing that I have my memories and a digital photo on my computer. I’ll see if I have the courage to send them to their final resting place. Wish me luck!
My grandfather (whom I affectionately called Daddy) has been on my mind a lot the past couple days and I’m finding all kinds of reminders of him around the house. It seems as though he wants me to remember where my sense of adventure originated. My grandfather was a lot of things to a lot of people: father, grandfather, great-grandfather, husband over fifty years, Alaska Senator, author, friend, brother, bush pilot, hunting guide, homesteader, and much more. To me he was Daddy. I had the great pleasure and honor (okay, that’s probably stretching it a bit from a teenager’s perspective) of spending a very impressionable time of my life with he and my grandmother from the age of twelve until I entered college when I was sixteen years old.
In 1983 my grandfather spent Christmas in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. I had learned to ski a couple of years prior and he knew how much I dreamed of owning my own skis. We just didn’t have that kind of money though. My grandmother worked in the home, my grandfather relied on a very modest income from the state (he obviously served his constituents out of love for the job and not the income), and I worked part-time to cover my extras. So, when my grandfather presented me with a tiny pewter box at the hospital you can imagine how shocked I was to find out what this gift represented. The box was oval-shaped and had a downhill skier engraved on the front with two pine cones (which were actually earrings). Hiding inside the box was a necklace with a pewter pine cone pendant (hey, what do you expect it was the eighties). He wrote (in his famous chicken scratch penmanship) me a note that promised we would make the skis “to size” when we arrived in Juneau. I was the happiest kid alive! To this day this was the most amazing and memorable gift I have ever received.
I get a little choked up when I think of separating from these boots. Perhaps it’s because I’m reminded of my grandfather and his generosity, or because I only have a few treasures to remember him by, or possibly the boots represent a bright light in my childhood that was often filled with uncertainty. When I remember how significant this beautiful gift was, to a young lady, I realize how much I miss my grandfather and how much fun it would be sharing my life with him now. I know he would absolutely get a kick out of my new adventure, because he NEVER played it safe (talk about courage). He lived his life on his own terms (mostly to the chagrin of my beloved grandmother) and truly did it his way. My grandfather loved to share tales of his youth for hours on end and I often nodded off in the middle of a long-winded story. A lot of time has passed, since I had the pleasure of hearing his words, and now my brain struggles to fill in all the blanks. My saving grace is the book he wrote and I will hold that closely to my heart and share his memory and life with my own children. I miss you Daddy.