The letter said he was dying, that’s all Jules Weinstein knows when she leaves her life in San Francisco and moves to New York City to be with her father. Little does she know that by getting to know her father, she will find herself.
The bond of a father and daughter is special. When Jules' father asks her to come stay with him because he's terminally ill, she goes for the remarkable opportunity to really know her father. She never dreamed he had liberated a concentration camp, dealt cards to Bugsy Siegel, or saved the life of a Black Panther. Wings of Hope takes you on a road trip through the memories of a man making peace with his life through his conversations with his daughter. Teaching her that death is sometimes the most heartbreakingly beautiful part of life.
Hope is the last gift of a father to his daughter--the power to reach for her dreams.
While we waited, he stared up at the mountains.
“This is where I started skiing,” he explained to me after a time.
“That makes sense,” I responded, nodding. “I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think I must have known that you didn’t start in Englewood.”
He smiled. “Have I told you about my first day on the mountain?”
“No, but please do,” I had a feeling this was going to be a story worth hearing. I settled back in my chair.
“I had a friend named Harry, who was quite an adventurer. It didn’t take much, but he convinced me to try skiing right after the first snow settled over the mountains.
At that time, the ski chalet was at the bottom of the mountains. That was where you rented all of your equipment. We had bought jackets because we didn’t have anything that was waterproof.” He grinned.
“First, we were in the boot line. Amazingly, the boots were even more uncomfortable then than they are today. There was no shape to them at all. I’ll bet you could have worn them on either foot interchangeably, but I don’t remember. Later, I had a pair custom made--those were great boots. But these were huge and cumbersome.
Next, we got in the line for skis. When you made it up to the counter, they had you stand with your arm raised over your head--straight.” Dad raised his arm and cupped his fingers over. The guy would take a ski and hold it up to you. You got the pair that was as long as you were--with your arm straight up in the air. I think I had 220s the first time--can you imagine?” He winked at me.
Dad had started taking me skiing when I was four. We’d skied at least once a year from that time on. The idea of 220s on your first try was ludicrous--I shook my head vehemently. It would have been like putting two by fours on your feet and then trying to go down the mountain without killing yourself. Total insanity.
“Thinking we were going to be Olympic skiers our first time on the mountain,” he continued. “We took our boots and skis and took the lift to the very top of the mountain.”
Beer almost shot out my nose. “Are you serious?” I snorted. “Clearly you didn’t kill yourself, since you are sitting here, but how did you make it down?”
“Funny you should ask that,” he retorted, “when we got off the lift, we looked down. It was a sheer cliff. I remember we stood there staring over the edge. Honestly, I thought we were going to die. After a couple of minutes, we came to our senses. Off came the skis. We carried them--all the way down the mountain. Inch by inch, we stepped sideways using the skis and poles to keep us upright. We’d gone up about ten in the morning. I’ll never forget, it was four o’clock when we got down the mountain. They’d just closed up the lift. We were exhausted and went straight to the bar. Irish coffee has never tasted as good as it did that day.” Dad smiled sheepishly.
I was laughing so hard, tears were coming down my cheeks. “Oh my gosh,” I gasped. “That is hilarious. Obviously, you went back up the mountain.”
Dad laughed along with me. “Eventually--first we took some lessons, went down the bunny slopes, found that there were some much easier runs. After a couple of seasons skiing, we went back to the top of the mountain and skied down the run. Even then, it was scary, but I was almost a good enough skier to do it. I didn’t go down it again that year. I waited another year and tried again. Three years of skiing under my belt, and it was doable, but certainly not easy. In my fifth year, it was actually fun.”
“Wow! What was it? A black diamond?” I asked.
“At that time, they didn’t score them the same way, I don’t think, but I checked it after all the runs were tested. It was a double black diamond.”
“You’re really lucky you could make it down at all,” I told him, quite seriously.
He nodded, “I know. Of course, I didn’t know it then, but later, I worked for an orthopod whose practice was actually at the bottom of that hill. He’d made loads of money off of the stupidity of people like me.” He grinned wickedly.
“Really? How did that work?” I wanted to know. “Obviously, lots of foolish people who break bones, but . . .” I trailed off.
“A few ways actually. For one thing, people literally fell in the office--they’d fly down the mountain and crash at his door. If they crashed further up the mountain, the ski patrol brought them to his office, if it was a broken bone, because it was the closest and the safest place for them to get to. Lastly, he actually had a Saint Bernard that went out and found people. The dog would give them a slug of brandy, go back to the house and bark. The doc was an excellent skier, and the dog would lead him back to the injured person. One of them--either the doctor or the dog--would take the injured person, strapped into a gurney-type mechanism down to his office. I think he had the first prototype of the ski gurney. For all I know, he patented it and made another multi-millions on that.” Dad smiled at the thought.