Dark News on a Bluebird Day
I am up too early. Sitting at the kitchen counter sipping coffee. The fire is popping in the stove, the radio is on low, with the news. Our news, that a heli-skiing accident yesterday killed one guide, and seriously injured two clients, hasn’t made the loop yet. But it will, I’m sure. I couldn’t sleep thinking about how our good news is someone else’s bad news. In the ski party of five (two guides, three clients) one guide was just on the other side of the crack that sent an avalanche crashing down the slope, and watched the whole thing. The other four were caught in it—including the terrific young man who is my daughter’s boyfriend and who is still sleeping upstairs. (It’s all I can do not to sneak in his room just to hear him breathing.) Bryan said he felt the telltale “whump” of doom and “knew” and pulled the cord on his red inflatable airbag as if it was a parachute and he was exiting a burning airplane. He had purchased the 1300.00 device with some money his grandmother left him. He wore a helmet my daughter made him buy this season. He tumbled along the top, and over and under and back up again—for about 1000 feet, he guesses, but still isn’t sure. The ride left the others battered and bleeding. Bryan doesn’t have a scratch. Not a black eye or a bloody lip. At the Haines clinic, they didn’t even realize he had been in the accident. He looked fine. His gloves were torn right off his hands, leaving only the elastic wristbands, but his hands look better than mine do. He has a cough from swallowing so much snow, and I’m sure when he awakes, now that the adrenaline has faded, he’ll be really sore. But he’s fine—fine! It’s a kind of miracle. Last night I went to bed so grateful and relieved that I nearly forgot about another family, the one whose son or daughter's boyfriend won’t ever be sleeping safely upstairs again. Of course heli-skiing is dangerous. I don’t wear a personal airbag and a helmet when I walk the dogs on the beach. But you know, these mountains beckon. You should have seen the smiles Saturday night around here after Bryan’s bluebird day in the sun. The tales he told about it were thrilling, and for him, and all of them, it was crazy and fun. Oh mothers, what are we to do? Buy our boys one of those airbags. Tell them to wear a helmet. Remind them to be safe. Pray.