Today as my dad was sitting next to me when I was driving to school, I got out of the car and he said, “I’ll see you tonight.” To most people those words might seem like a hackneyed expression used without emotion while parting ways. But as I was leaving the car, those same words froze me as I remembered how close I was to never hearing him say that phrase again.
One hundred and fifty feet down China Bowl in Vail, Colorado is the spot that almost claimed my dad’s life. As the snow poured down from the sky, my dad went over his skis headfirst and he broke three vertebrae in his neck. The incredible thing is, that my dad stood right up, oblivious to the trauma his neck had just endured, and continued skiing for the rest of the day.
For the next few weeks my dad continued going about his normal routine. He worked out and skied, still unaware that he should be legally dead by now. His neck pain finally took him into the doctor’s office where they x-rayed him, but the doctors saw no problems. As the end of the month came near, his neck pain was so unbearable that he went back into the doctor, where they decided to give him and MRI.
The next morning he received a phone call from his doctor saying, “Do not move, we are sending an ambulance over right away.”
Being the stubborn man that my father is, he refused to call us at the Salt Lake Olympics and tell us the news, in hopes that we would stay in Utah and enjoy the games. We returned a few days later to the news of my dad’s neck, and rushed over to the hospital.
I couldn’t recognize the man lying in front of me, mounted on his bed like one of Frankenstein’s monsters. He had two metal bars drilled into his forehead supporting a black halo around his skull.
The man, who was once my superhero, who could walk through fire, could solve any problem brought before him, was now not even strong enough to move.
In the days after we brought my dad home from the hospital, it felt like my mom had just brought a new member of the family home for the first time. We had to shower my dad, walk him everywhere, and even feed him his meals. The man who used to climb a tree before me to see if it was safe, was now the man who couldn’t get up for his own food.
After a few months, the doctors removed the ‘halo’ from his head. Almost as if someone had taken the kryptonite away, my dad was back to being my Superman.
Today, every moment we are able to spend together feels like an extra inning in the World Series. One day I hope that everyone will be able to be in the tenth inning with someone they love, and appreciate every moment they can.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.