A great deal of snow dumped on the mountains of Maine in late December of this year, and the ski conditions were ideal. There have not been a lot of great ski days over the holidays over the last few years, so I was very excited to get an early start on the mountain at Sunday River on Saturday, December 29. I pushed my boys, as well as my brother and nephew, out of bed early so we could be among the first on the lifts at 8:00 a.m. We took a few fast runs, making our way across the resort to an area where we knew the crowds would be lightest and the snow optimal at that time in the morning. My boys don’t rest when skiing, jumping off the lift and skiing all the way down, directly to the bottom, to get on the chair and do it again. I pride myself that I am an expert skier, and that I can more than keep up with my kids, often setting the pace and choosing the trails. The day was glorious, the snow plentiful and soft, and I was happy and a million miles in my mind from the worries of school.
Greek mythology is rife with warnings of the price of human hubris. The Irish offer endless version of Murphy’s Law, cautioning that if something can go wrong, it will. I believe these things, so I should have seen it coming. At the start of the sixth run of the day, at 9:30 a.m., I went first, shooting down a steep section near the top of my favorite trail on the mountain. At that moment, a cloud passed over the sun and the light went flat. I misjudged a ridge in the snow, lost my balance, and kicked my right ski loose. I fell hard, but my left binding never released. As I twisted through the air, I knew I had broken my left leg before I even hit the ground. It also is a fact that I have broken my left leg skiing twice before, so the sensation was not a mystery to me. As I lay there in the snow, and my family skied up to me, it hurt a lot, but mostly I was just really angry that I had done it again. My son, Patrick, told me later that he learned some new words from me that day as the ski patrol loaded me in the toboggan for the ride down the mountain.
So I missed the first six days of the second semester, after reparative surgery, with my leg in the air. I am delighted to be headed back to work this week, albeit on crutches for a long time. So what have I learned? There are six quick lessons I have taken away that I will share in Assembly soon:
1) Even when things are bad, they could be much worse. I am inconvenienced, but I’ll recover, and I am very fortunate in that regard.
2) You have to let people help you. They want to, and nothing is to be gained by being heroic and stoic. And you don’t get better faster by doing it all yourself.
3) Life goes on, and things are fine, even when you’re not there. There are lots of competent people around who can temporarily pick up the slack.
4) Being immobilized is a good experience, not one that I would have chosen, but which nevertheless reminds me of small blessings in this life, of good health, good friends and loving family.
5) While I am inconvenienced and others are willing to help, my injury is nevertheless a burden on others, especially my wife, and I am reminded to say thank you often and express gratitude to everyone for helping me out.
6) I need to seriously reconsider, if not my commitment to skiing, at the very least the way I ski. Maybe I am not such an expert any more!
I expect to be fully mobile again by the time of graduation in the spring, so I can issue diplomas and say goodbye to the class of 2013 while comfortably standing. Although hobbled, I should be back to full speed in my office by the end of this month. I look forward to being again fully immersed in life at 10 Campus Drive!