Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Skating Lesson

This is an essay I wrote about this time last year for one of my classes. As dad is again, in the hospital; I felt led to share this small slice of my youth. Shortly after I wrote this, I did share the essay with him.

When I was about ten years old I had the chance to see Peggy Fleming ice skate at a skating rink in Philadelphia, PA. It was an exhibition; I don’t remember any other skaters, just her. She was wearing a beautiful green chiffon skating dress, and it just floated around her. She was so graceful; I decided I wanted to look like that on ice skates. This desire lead me into a wonderful lesson in following directions, really knowing how much my father loves me and how to overcome obstacles in life.

I didn’t understand the connections that my father had in ice skating until I was an adult, but as if by magic, ice skates would show up at our house; not new but the right size, girls figure skates. So that winter, I would awkwardly lace up the skates over two pairs of socks, to keep my toes warm, and totter out onto the iced-over farm pond; trying desperately to keep my ankles straight and to make my self move forward. I would dig the toe stops into the ice to propel myself forward, and after a few staggering steps, fall down.

This particular cold winter morning, dad was home, and he asked if I wanted to go down to the farm pond, and he would help me with my skating. Wow, I was going to get help. Maybe I could learn to skate better, maybe even like Peggy Fleming. I was excited, so instead of riding my bike down to the farm (a half mile away) dad was going to drive us down.

I bundled up: I put on my long-johns, jeans, extra sweaters, two pairs of socks, gloves, scarf, hat…I was ready! We walked slowly out to the frozen pond. There was only a thin crust of snow in spots, and no wind, so you could see your breath. My nose was cold but I didn’t care. Dad told me to run on ahead and get my skates on, so I jogged over to the edge of the pond and balanced on one leg at a time to take off my boots and pull on the skates. I hurriedly tightened up my laces, my bare fingers were cold, having to take my gloves off, and tried to get the skates just tight enough to hold up my ankles.

I stepped awkwardly out onto the ice; and promptly fell on my butt. Dad didn’t say a word; he just carefully stepped out onto the ice, and stood balanced with his legs slightly spread, looking very steady. “OK Lis” he said “stand up with your feet together, and get your balance. Now, I want you to let your feet slowly move apart.” I was amazed, I started moving forward; I hadn’t even pushed off. “Now”, he said, “lift one foot up and put it back next to your other foot, and let your feet slide apart again.” So I did. “Now do it again.” I was moving forward smoothly, doing what he said; I began to find the rhythm, and all at once it was easy!

He continued to show me more techniques, until I was not even lifting my blades off the ice, just simply shifting my weight from the inside edge of the blade to the outside edge; to smoothly turn and keep up my momentum. Then dad said “now build up your speed, and balance on one leg.” So I did, wobbling a little bit. So I tried again, and I felt smoother, more controlled. Then dad said “circle around and I want you to stretch out your leg and lean forward, make your body a straight line.” So I tried. I kept my body parallel to the ice, and smoothly glided along on one leg. “Lis, that is a camel.” I was thrilled! I did a move just like Peggy Fleming. I was a real figure skater. I felt wonderful, excited; I felt like I could do anything.

Now, to conclude this story, let’s go back to the introductory paragraph. I’m sure you can see from my experience how following direction lead to me being finally able to skate the way I dreamt of, and of course you can see that my dad loves me, after all I’m his daughter. Let me elaborate, I didn’t tell you something exceptional about my dad… You see, he only has one leg. He lost it in a huge accident in the mid 1950’s. So for my dad to walk out onto the ice to teach me to skate is a big deal. Falling is not as simple as it is for you and me; when you only have one leg, your balance is not the same. So for dad to do that for me, showed me so clearly the love he has for me; and one other thing, if he could overlook something as huge as only having one leg, I could overcome the simple problems that face all of us in our lives. Dad never had to have a discussion with me about overcoming obstacles, he lived it every day.

As I look back on the memory of that morning, I see that by having some direction, things will go smoother. I can now appreciate the huge obstacles dad has overcome. It is so clear to me not to let the daily challenges I face stop me. I also realize what my dad was willing to risk because he loves me. It makes me put my own life in perspective. What am I willing to risk to pursue my dream? And am I willing to listen to directions? So I decided to skate past the obstacles, keep my eyes on my goals and glide forward into a much brighter future.

Now I would like to add an addendum in way of expanding on this essay; My father was in a mid-air crash over Reno, NV while in the Air Force and successfully bailed out, yet lost his leg. Prior to the crash, he had been an add-in to the IceCapades (joining the team of "Frick and Frack"), was extremely active, and the day before the crash, had won a "Jitterbug" contest. The loss of his leg changed some things obviously, but he never let the loss of a limb slow him down at all. These things I found out later, as I "grew up".

1 comment:

Christina Langella said...

Hi Lisa,

I'm not sure how I missed this one but it has become one of my favorites! What a wonderful message and story! We press on despite the setbacks and failures. We get up in Jesus name!

God bless you and dad!

Love you!


PS I used to want to be Dorothy Hammil (sp?) when I was a little girl! Grace however, was not one of my strengths! LOL!