Lost on the Slopes

It’s every mother’s nightmare. Your precious child is right beside you. Then she’s not. The nightmare is no less real when the child is 33 years old. And you’re the one who’s lost.

Last March, while visiting daughter Meg in Colorado, she and I went skiing at Copper Mountain. Because she’s a better skier than I am, Meg offered to carry my cell phone and wallet and the trail map in her backpack so I wouldn’t be burdened with extra stuff. “We’ll stay together,” she promised. “It’s easy to get confused here.”

Right off the bat, things went downhill. I got knocked over trying to get on the high-speed chair lift. A few minutes later and halfway down a too-steep run, a patch of ice sent me sprawling.  I eventually made my way to my feet to rejoin Meg and, for a little while, began to enjoy myself. With noon approaching, we decided to make a long run and then break for lunch. But somehow, part-way down the mountain, I lost her in the crowd. I soon discovered that the trail we’d started on merged with other trails and then split. Was Meg ahead of me or behind me? Which bottom- of-the-mountain route should I take in hopes of finding her?

Despite the cold temperature, I broke into a sweat. How would I ever find Meg in this huge place? My cell phone was in her backpack. Even if I could borrow a phone from a kind stranger, I couldn’t call her because I had no idea what her number was. Like most of my other contacts, it was stored in my phone instead of my memory. It had been hours since breakfast, and hunger was making my head pound and my legs tremble. We’d packed cheese crackers and juice boxes, but they, too, were in her backpack. Along with all my cash.

I finally made my way down the middle trail and went to the Ski Patrol office. They suggested calling my cell phone from their land line to see if Meg would answer. She didn’t. I used their computer to look up the phone number of Meg’s office, hoping they could get in touch with her. My call went straight to voicemail.

There was nothing left to do but bury my face in my hands and cry.

When I ran out of tears, which took quite a while, I decided to formulate a plan. First, I would stay put and let Meg find me. No sense in chasing each other around Uncle Charlie’s barn. Second, I would accept the ski patrol nurse’s offer of a Gatorade and an energy bar. Third, and most difficult, I would try to be calm and productive while I waited. So I bummed a pencil and a piece of paper and wrote this column.

Which turned out, I hope, to be just right for Mother’s Day.

(May 14, 2017)