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The Dreaded Ski Trip

As you go through life, you really never know what you're going to encounter next.  One day, life is spectacular and the sun is shining; the next day, you're waylaid by an oncoming train you never saw coming. 

For me, pregnancy was something I dreamt of my entire life.  When my husband I got pregnant, we spent many hours dreaming of the perfectly formed, adonis-like child that was soon to be.  Everything that happened during my pregnancy was normal.  Tests were fine, blood levels were normal, the pictures looked great.  We knew it was all going to happen exactly the way it was supposed to.

When my child was born, that was almost true.  He was beautiful and had all his fingers and toes and breathed normally.  We paraded him to family and friends secure in the knowledge that he was going to be the golden boy we had hoped for and expected. 

Six months later, a rare illness left him completely and totally blind.

Shock is an interesting phenomenon and it does well to insulate you from the pain caused by tragic events.  It took more than a year for my husband and I to emerge from the deep depression associated with knowing that our child, while beautiful and loving and funny, would never know sight. 

Over the next several years, like all parents of special needs children, we dealt with it.  We read books and attended seminars and put our child through numerous programs developed to help him live a normal, independent life.  We knew there were certain things he simply never could or would do but, for lack of a better word, both we and he dealt with it.

When he was six years old, we were talking and he asked what I did when I was a kid and I told him we used to go skiing often since I grew up near the mountains of Vermont.  He then asked why we never took him skiing.  What was I supposed to say?  "Because you're blind and you can't ski" didn't seem to be the right statement to make to a young boy.  So I made up a few excuses about not having time and being old and a few other inane comments.  Of course, his next question was "can we all go skiing this winter?"

My husband and I labored over a response but, finally, with no excuses left, we simply said "sure, let's go."  I spent the next several weeks worrying and cringing and trying to figure out how to help my son get over the fact that he wasn't really going to be able to ski like the rest of us could.  I also worried about him hitting a tree but I had found that blind skiing is a well-known pastime with hundreds of skilled guides to assist disabled skiers so I was pretty certain that he was going to be ok.

Needless to say, we went skiing later that winter worried that it might turn out to be a disaster that would eat away at my child's self-esteem and eventually be one of those events that left him traumatized and drooling in a corner.

We are now eight years removed from that ski trip and my child recently won a regional championship for blind skiers at a local resort.  As he stood on the podium with a gold medal draped around his neck beaming for all the world to see, I thought to myself: you really never know what you're going to encounter next.  One day, you're waylaid by an oncoming train you never saw coming; the next day, life is spectacular and the sun is shining.

Audrey Campbell


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