We arrive at the ski hills in Bemidji, Minnesota, and jump out of the car. The ride seemed to take forever as it always does when I’m excited for something. The walk up to the lodge was short, but the hills in the back seemed to double in size as we got closer. Soon we were inside the lodge and renting some equipment. We quickly threw on our boots and got skis and lift passes.
“Thank you for bringing me with, Jay,” Justin said, putting on his skis.
“You're welcome,” Dad replied.
“How long can we ski for?” I asked dad while getting my my gloves on.
“Until eleven. Then I will meet you right here.”
“Come on, let's go!” I said to Justin as we opened the door and slid toward the ski lift.
The evening air was cold against my face as we glided over the snow. The small, white hill looked massive as we stood in front of it. The place had a quiet and empty feeling, which seemed odd with all the people around. The rusty, old ski lifts swayed back and forth in the wind as they lifted upwards. On our way towards the top of a hill, the ski lift swayed back and forth. Looking around we saw all the slopes and the people on them. The sun was setting behind the trees in the distance as we approached the top. We slid down the top of the lift and looked for a slope to ride down towards the bottom.
We decided we should start with some easy slopes and get warmed up. As the lights came on the whole place seemed to be packed with people but still strangely empty, but I was having fun anyways. A little while later I checked my phone for the time. My phone said nine o’clock. The time was flying by and I needed a break, I was getting cold. I figured we could take a short break for warming up.
“Do you want to get some hot chocolate?” I asked Justin.
“Sure,” he said. “I’ll race you to the bottom.”
The cold wind whipped by my face as I went down the hill toward the lodge. The lights were on and the wood on the inside looked cozy. When we walked into the lodge, the smell of deep fried food lunged toward us and pulled us into the line by the kitchen. We ordered our hot chocolate and sat down at a log table. The hot chocolate was delicious on my lips and the steam rolled off of it. Yet, as I sat there with people all around me, I still felt strangely alone.
All of a sudden my dad walked over and told me we were leaving. When I looked at his face I knew something was wrong. I was worried because he told me we could ski until eleven and it was only a little past nine. I was in fourth grade though so I was too old for throwing a fit. Then Justin’s mom came over and said that he could keep skiing and that his brother was out skiing right now. I said goodbye and Justin and his mom left the table, then dad and I walked out of the building. Walking towards the car, I could hear the sound of music from the lodge getting further and further away. As soon as we got out of the parking lot, I asked dad why we had to leave.
His next words were a few I will never forget.
“Your grandpa just died,” he said.
“Oh,” was all I could think to say back.
Suddenly, everything was blurry and I didn’t know what to do. All the cars and people around us just seemed like they were objects in the way. There was a sharp pain in my chest. The time on the clock stood still. Holding back those tears was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. I always wished my dad would be proud of me but how could he if I was weak. For at that age if you cried people made fun of you and I just couldn’t do it in front of my dad. In my mind, I could hear my grandpa’s hoarse voice saying my name and thought about how I would never hear it again. All the memories of the past seemed stuck in my head. The ride home was quiet and I just couldn’t believe it was true. The radio seemed to be just a noise in the background. Each street lamp we passed seemed a reminder of my grandpa; as quickly as they came, they were even quicker to go. I could hear the tires spinning on the car as they carried us toward home. Yet the closer we got towards home was the closer we got towards reality.