Trust Me

A True Story of Strength, Perseverance and Determination

Sue Ann Lockard

One of life’s true delights is having a pal who is always ready for any escapade or adventure one may conjure up.  Irene is such a companion for me.  Together we have shopped, always looking for the bargain of the century, baked Christmas goodies, and wallpapered.  We have even landscaped our yards together, once returning home with what looked like 200 dead mums begged from a nursery that was throwing them out.  Our families looked at us then, as they had on other occasions, like we were crazy, but they now enjoy the flowering beauty of that productive day.

We had great fun decorating and cooking for my sister’s Christmas wedding and reception, carrying it off with the resplendence of a Southern Living layout.  I think the key word here is FUN!   Some moment in every escapade will find us in that silly state where every word uttered seems unbelievably hilarious.  We are a bit like Lucy and Ethel, often switching roles from one episode to the next.

A remarkable facet of our relationship is that Irene’s husband, Paul, is also a very good friend of my husband Marc.  The fact that they are both Aggies provided an instant rapport, and the fact that Paul is a super nice guy sealed the deal.

The rest of this wonderful blend are two daughters, of like ages, in each family, and my son Jim who served as a surrogate son for the C’s particularly since he too joined the brotherhood of Aggies.

Since our families are so compatible, we decided a number of years ago to go on a joint ski trip.  We had great fun planning all aspects of the trip from housing to menus.  The house we stayed in was incredibly comfortable, with four bedrooms and baths, two living areas on different levels each with its own fireplace, TV, VCR, etc., a fabulous view, and lots of room outside for the kids’ snow ball fights and sledding.

To top this off, our children were old enough to handle their own ski gear.  What more could Irene and I ask for?

Well…….. “ Listen my children and you shall hear,

Of a skiing adventure fraught with laughter and fear!”

After the requisite hardy mountain breakfast, our enthusiastic bunch were all chomping at the bit to hit the runs.  Being the only inexperienced skier in the group, Irene parted our company, and checked herself into ski school.

Others of us split into various compatible pairs and proceeded to have wonderful times exploring the runs and becoming familiar with the mountain.  We all had a great first day, and a second as well.  On the third day, Irene decided to forego ski school and practice alone on the bunny slope.  We all met back at the house around noon the third day, for a bowl of hot Texas chili, which had been simmering in the crock-pot all morning.  The kids ate quickly, jammed a few snacks into their pockets and bid us adieu to hit the trails again.

We elders took a bit longer to rejuvenate, but decided, after a brief siesta, we would make a few more runs before day’s end.  Irene was feeling particularly encouraged, after a morning on her own with no falls.  I decided to tell her about the marvelous, long, gentle green run I had discovered in the course of my forays up and down the mountain.

Marc and Paul helped me convince Irene that this run wasn’t any steeper, for the most part, than the bunny run, and she could enjoy a nice long un-interrupted practice.  She was hesitant at first, but a bit more persuasion and she finally capitulated to our pressure and the challenge.  We were off!

At the lift, we met up with our younger daughters, who wanted to ski with their dads.  The guys agreed to go with the girls, but Paul left us very reluctantly.   As we stood in line waiting for our turn on the lift, Irene gave signs of backing out.  “Trust me Irene,” I said encouragingly, “you can do this.”  She really didn’t have time to reconsider, as a lift attendant, seeing a look of uncertainty on her face, took her by the elbow and slid her into position to mount the lift.  Within seconds, we were jerked into the air, but after an initial moment to adjust in our seats, Irene looked like she was getting into the spirit.

We were enjoying a very convivial time, when suddenly the lift came to a halt.  I had overlooked mentioning that occasionally that might happen if someone had trouble getting on or off the lift.  Neither the fact that we were suspended from a cable on a swaying swing, nor the facts that there might be trouble getting off the lift were reassuring to my friend.  I smiled, reached over to give her an encouraging mittened pat, and told her to relax and enjoy the beautiful view.  She sat quietly for a few moments and then said, “We’re really in God’s country now.”  Smiling weakly she asked, “How much longer?” “Oh, about 5 minutes,” I answered.  “These are very slow lifts.  Why don’t you count poles.  There are about 40 more.”  Again she said, “Yes, we really are in God’s country now!”

All I had considered, when I had first encouraged her to go, was the nice long gentle run DOWN, not this panicking bundle of nerves that was developing beside me on the way UP.  We finally did get off that lift, and I saw such unmitigated relief on her face I really dreaded having to tell her that the runs from this point were too difficult, and we had to transfer to another lift to get to the marvelous, wonderful, long, gentle green run.  I could tell her faith in me, the lift, herself, and the whole situation was waning.  “Come on Irene, Trust Me, you can do this,” I repeated.

Because she really had no choice at this point, or perhaps because she was too numb from the cold to think of a reasonable alternative, she meekly followed me on to the second lift, which unfortunately traveled over the top of a black mogul run.  Talk about losing it! Oh my God, Sue Ann!! How did I ever let you talk me into this?  I just know I’m never going to see my family again!  At this point, she weakly began singing “Jesus loves me this I know.”  Then she opened her eyes and said, “Oh my God Sue Ann, we are so high there aren’t any trees.  I HATE YOU! Why did I ever agree to this?”

I must admit, by now even I was pretty sure this had not been such a good idea.  It was much colder than it had been in the morning, and it seemed to be taking infinitely longer than I had anticipated getting to the marvelous, long, gentle green run.  The last few minutes were straight up, and unfortunately, Irene was forced to witness a supposedly expert, black run skier, careening wildly on his back in a helter-skelter ride, over the moguls directly below us.  His skis and poles were being flung off in every direction with Irene watching in absolute horror!

I was so relieved when I saw the sign telling us to get ready to disembark.  After what she had just witnessed, Irene’s nerves were completely shot, and I knew with every fiber of my being that I had made a terrible miscalculation about her readiness for this venture.  I began inwardly to pray that we would get down in one piece without the ski patrol. The responsibility for Irene’s safety was weighing heavily on me.

Miraculously, we dismounted the lift without a mishap, and as we slid away from the lift, I could almost hear a “Heavenly Halleluiah Chorus,” as the marvelous, long, gentle green run finally came into view.  It lay before us, smooth and white, bounded on both sides by beautiful towering ever-greens, looking ever so much safer than the rocky terrain we had just been dangling over.

In spite of this comforting view, I knew she was still terrified, both from the climb, and horrifying spill we had just had the misfortune of watching.  Although we had made it this far, I was now not nearly so confident as I had been a short time earlier.  “Trust me Irene,” I said, striving for a moment of levity in that tense situation.  “It’s all downhill from here.”  “Yeah right! You’re so funny,” she said, her spirits reviving, partially because her feet were back on terra firma, a few thousand feet further above sea level than she might have liked, but solid ground nevertheless.  “You are going to do great!” I reassured.

Because it was already 3:00, and the runs would close at 4:00, many skiers were zipping off, hurriedly trying to get in those last precious runs of the day.  The slope here was gentle, but so many people, sliding quickly past in tight confines, is very unsettling to a novice skier.  I calmly told my frozen friend to snow plow over to the side and let the rushing hordes pass.

“Now, Irene,” I quietly said, “I’m going to make large zig-zagging turns back and forth very slowly.  Just follow in my tracks.”  Irene pushed off tentatively, and the grade here was perfect, impelling her, but not too quickly.  “Great, Great! You look wonderful,” I said, as I saw her beginning to smile.  I felt myself relaxing, beginning to think we might get through this yet.

I led and Irene followed, face glowing, and confidence growing.  Maybe, I thought, she is beginning to trust me again.  “Coming through on the left,” yelled a skier.  “On the right,” bellowed another.  Irene froze.  “That’s great,” I encouraged, “just stand still and let them get by and then we’ll go on.”  Several more fearless fliers accelerated past.  Irene never moved.  “OK,” I directed, “The coast is clear.”  We proceeded making almost perpendicular passes to the run.  Irene was definitely moving ahead as a skier, but at this rate, we were not making much progress getting down the mountain.

While to Irene I was smiling and encouraging, internally I was making a mental note of the fact that not many others were swishing past us now.  That was definitely better for Irene, but I knew the runs would be closing soon; at the pace we were traveling, no way were we going to be down the mountain on time.  “You’re doing a fantastic job!  See I knew you could do it,” I praised aloud, all the while thinking to myself that Paul and Marc would be starting to worry soon.

About this time we overtook another female duo, with one on the ground, and both looking exhausted.  Since they looked like they were managing, we made some commiserating comment and kept on truckin’.  Irene was even picking up a little speed.  I had been so glad to see those two.  While I could empathize with their situation, I was secretly grateful that we would not be totally alone in our last few frozen hours. 

We came to a slightly steeper grade, not much steeper mind you…but Irene could tell.  “Now trust me,” I entreated, “you can do this.  Just snow plow and we’ll go very slowly.”   Irene was beaming when she said, “Aren’t you impressed? I haven’t fallen once!”  “You’re doing great Irene,” I responded.  We made that little slope and she really was amazing me, but I could tell she was getting tired, and I knew we had a steeper slope yet to go near the bottom.

Oh, it can’t be, I thought to myself, as the two we had passed earlier on the ground, had incredibly rejuvenated and were now sailing past us.  This was not a good sign!  Suddenly, the specter of Irene and I freezing to death, alone on the mountain flashed through my mind!  By now, even Irene had noticed that there seemed to be no one on the hill but us.  I began to think my own death was imminent.  The only unknown was whether my demise would be by freezing, or at the hands of Irene’s normally gentle but by now worried and irate husband.

Though panicking on the inside, I tried to appear calm on the outside and encouraged Irene, “Hang in there; the last run down to the base is just ahead, and I bet Paul will be waiting with a cup of hot coffee.”

She still hadn’t fallen, but she was exhausted and we had gotten to a stretch with no slope at all.  Normally, you would have enough speed to coast through, but at the pace we were now traveling, there would be no such exhilarating ride for us.  The alternative to coasting is poling, which is grueling labor, especially for someone who is already exhausted.

Surely, I kept thinking, the Ski Patrol will check all the runs.  “Where in the hell,” I screamed to myself, “is that last curve before Heading Home?”  Then a terrifying thought occurred to me.  The very last stretch of Heading Home is a steep slope that gets very icy late in the day.  How would I ever get Irene down that?

Well, I reasoned, I’ll just have her sit down and slide on her bottom.  “Almost there,” I yelled out, “keep it up! I knew you could do it.”  But to myself I thought I just didn’t know we’d be doing it so slowly.  Just as we finally rounded the last curve I did hear the ski patrol.  He stopped and asked if we needed help.  We definitely needed help, but Irene emphatically stated, “No way is Paul going to see me come down on a snowmobile.”  “Irene!” I implored, “you’ve done so well, and this last slope is going to be icy.  You’re tired and I think it would be a good idea to ride on down.”  No, it was not to be.  Her stubborn Greek streak had kicked in!  I knew by now our families were probably imagining the worst.  The runs had been closed for more than half an hour.  It was still daylight, but the shadows were getting longer, and the melted snow was freezing into unforgiving ice.

As conditions on the mountain worsened and fatigue became a major factor, Irene had here, so near the end, finally slipped and fallen several times when the ski patrol returned on this way down.  The lodge was in sight by now and Irene, though barely standing, still refused to get on the snowmobile.  She said to the patrol, “I feel like such a fool.”  He assured her she wasn’t the first person to be last off the mountain, but she definitely would be the last one that day.

Since we were in sight of the bottom, he went ahead to tell Paul and the rest of our worried family members that we would be arriving intact momentarily.

Irene made it down; a little worse for wear physically, but with her true grit shining.  Paul was indeed waiting with coffee for her.  All were eager to hear of our travails, but we were literally not collected enough to recount the experience:  Thank heaven the crock-pot had come through again with a wonderful meal for those who still had the energy to eat.

A few days later, on our return home, Irene, still my friend, presented me with a small square ceramic magnet  she had picked up in an airport gift shop.  It is still on my refrigerator today, cracked, chipped and glued back together.  It sums up our adventure pretty well.


HOME page>                  NEW STUFF page> 
          WRITING CONTENT page>       GUEST ARTISTS page>Home_1.htmlNew_Stuff.htmlEssays.htmlGuest_Artists.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2shapeimage_1_link_3