Life Lessons

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 05/11/21 •  4 min read

This is a very difficult piece for me to write.

My dad passed away on Friday. For those of you who didn’t know him, you truly missed out.

Not only was he the best dad ever and a devoted, loving husband (he and my mom were married for 72 years), but he was someone who lived life joyfully. When I think of my Dad, I always think of him smiling. He was just happy to be alive.

Dad was many things: an avid pilot, a veteran of World War II (he flew B-17s over Europe — more than 32 missions — and even got shot down once), a prominent businessman in Toms River, NJ. The ultimate schmoozer, he was incredibly charming and made friends easily. He had the sort of grace you’d find in a natural athlete. He swam beautifully and was an elegant dancer. He loved boating and flying, he loved to sing in the car, he took us crabbing and fishing and to the beach and the boardwalk.

And he introduced me to skiing.

When I was 13, Dad decided to take the family on a ski trip to a small hill in New York state. For us, this was way out of the box. We lived at the Jersey Shore. No one we knew skied, and we had certainly never tried it before. We went boating and crabbing and fishing and swimming. We were water people. He might as well have offered us a trip to the moon.

Nonetheless, we rented equipment, took a lesson, and off we went. I wish I could say I fell in love right away, but I didn’t. The whole experience was dreadful: the long straight skis, the lace-up boots, those bear trap bindings (yes, I’m that old). The hill had a rope tow; it dragged me up the mountain, and I fell all the way down. Yes, there were tears. My sister, however, picked it up right away, and my competitive spirit egged me on. I persevered because I wanted to be better than she was. And since she now lives in Florida and hasn’t been near a ski hill in a million years, today I am.

But we must have had a good enough time for us to keep it up. Over the years, my Dad took us on many more ski trips, usually to Vermont, which is kind of ironic since that’s where I live now. My clearest memory of skiing with him is the way he used to sing when we went up the lift — corny songs at TOP VOLUME so that everyone, I thought, alllllllllllllll over the mountain could hear, laugh, and point. When you’re a teenager, this is devastatingly embarrassing.

What I wouldn’t give to do it all again.

Skiing with my Dad is a memory I’ll always treasure. In fact, I’ll treasure all the memories I have of him.

It also taught some important lessons. Such as the things you do with your kids can have profound, far-reaching implications, and you might not even know what those are until years later. Take skiing, an incidental, occasional activity for my family. But if my Dad hadn’t taken us all those years ago, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this today. I probably wouldn’t live in Vermont. And I wouldn’t have had so much joy and met so may amazing people.

Time is precious. Spend it with those you love. Create memories. Introduce your children to new experiences. Build a fire in them. Create passions. Be kind. Be loving.

To say that I’ll miss my Dad is an understatement. I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that he’s no longer here. By the same token, he’ll always be with me, on each and every ski run I take.

Love you forever, Dad. And thanks.