The Best in Us
My son broke his wrist. We were skiing on Mount Hood, not far from Timberline Lodge. It was sunny and still cold just after lunch. I’d promised him that I would take him up to the mountain at the end of the quarter, to celebrate good effort in school and clear the head a bit.
One moment we’re gliding down an easy, open slope, breathing the sharp air. The next I’m crouched beside him, his gear strewn about. He’s shaken.
“Not sure what …”
“Might’ve caught an edge. It happens.”
“I think it might be broken.”
People on the chairlift nearby were quiet. Skiers occasionally whooshed past. After a time, a woman and girl stopped and said they’d seen the wipeout, it looked pretty bad. Did we need help?
We were gathering our wits for a while, I said. But thanks.
Five minutes later, a man and a woman stopped, and the man asked if we were all right. I said we might try to ski down, and he said okay. Large guy, maybe around seventy, deep wrinkles around his eyes, slight accent.
We were still there, gathering our wits, my son unable to ski, when the same man and woman stopped again on the next run.
“Let us help you.” He looked at my son. “Do you think you can walk up?”
“I think so.”
“Give me your skis,” the man said to me.
I smiled under my mask. “No, I can —”
“It’s no problem. You walk, I’ll take them down. My daughter can take your poles. We’ll ride them up and leave them at the top of the lift.”
I observed my strong, fourteen-year-old son still sitting on the snow. “It’s no problem to call the ski patrol,” I said to him.
“I can walk.”
The man took our skis and lifted them to his shoulders. His daughter gathered all of the poles. “My name is Marco,” he said. “This is Nedra.”
“Ah, you’re a Mark, too! Okay, we’ll see you at the top.”
And off they skied. The man steady and graceful even with a heavy load. His daughter, arms full, making equally elegant turns.
“Take my hand,” I said to my son, and he did, and we began walking up the slope in our ski boots. “Still hurts pretty bad?”
It was about two hundred yards to the top. We hiked side by side, slowly, soon beneath the lift, and after a while, as we went on trudging, we heard a man’s voice from above.
“Mark, your skis will be waiting.”
“Thank you, Marco and Nedra.”
The words dissolved into the oddly calming sound of a chairlift. Into the mountain stillness beyond it. On this day of getaway recreation after a year of trials and adjustments, of fears and long patience.
Near the top I could tell that my son was digging deep. We pressed on, digging the toes of our boots into the snow. And there, not twenty feet away on their skis, were Marco and Nedra.
“You’re a strong young man,” Marco said to my son.
Then Nedra pointed up the slope. “Do you see that small group of trees right there? Your skis and poles are just on the other side.”
We paused, sweat flowing down our faces. They waved and skied off into the brightness, and we turned and finished the climb. I lifted the skis and poles, while my son walked close-by, trailing slightly, holding his arm. We made it to the car, and then back to town, to the doctor’s office, where we learned that the wrist was broken in two places.
In the days to come, the wrist will eventually heal, and certain elements of this memory will surely rise first. Such as a man and his daughter who, amid a year of pain and daily reminders of our fragility, stopped and helped. And a boy who tapped composure and grit when he was scared.
The best in us remains unbroken.