Living the Dream

Bumping to the rhythm of my dad’s song

By Merisa Sherman

I could hear him. He was there, skiing the line next to me and humming or singing, I’m not really sure which. It was like the two put together although I’m not sure how that could be. I tried to focus on my own turns, on the line of moguls before me but all I could hear was him bum-bum-bumming along to what I later found out was the 1969 song “Hitchin A Ride” by Vanity Fare. It was a song I hadn’t heard in a long time and never with the actual lyrics; I only knew the opening riff “done with a bum bum bum and then a hmmm hmmm hmmmm.”

That’s how I knew the song, because that’s how he always sang it to himself. It’s because he was too busy skiing like water through a line of moguls that he didn’t realize anyone could hear him. Honestly, he wouldn’t have cared. The song must have matched his rhythm, because I could always hear him singing it when we went down a bump run. Or when he was making his super round short radius turns down anything really. He was the kind of skier that the terrain beneath his feet didn’t matter. He was just beautiful.

He was beautiful even though his arms thought he was giving a combination of a ballet recital and a bow before the queen. They were round and flowy, extending to second position after a — I hate to admit publicly — a classic jersey pole flick that he never seemed to break the habit of. One arm went out to the side, so beautifully graceful, and then the other all while his feet made the most beautiful, balanced and rounded turns I still have ever seen. His footwork epitomized that “perfect turn” the ski instructors were always talking about, even if he crossed under rather than crossed over.

It was wondrous to watch him ski, because you just knew he was singing. Even if you couldn’t hear him, you could tell that he was dancing along to some song playing in his head. While everyone else made these jerky, slamming things as they struggled through the late spring bumps, he simply danced. And sang. And skied along in his own little world. It was truly captivating. He wasn’t famous or anything, but you would have noticed him. You would have noticed his unique technique and the way he breathed with each turn as he sang. Or hummed. Or bopped along to the rhythm in his head.

I shook my head to try and focus. I couldn’t be hearing that song; it was impossible. I almost stopped mid turn to look around to see where the song was coming from but there was no one around me at all. I mean, it was Superstar in the spring, so of course there were people everywhere but no one that could possibly be singing that song. I myself hadn’t heard it in over eight years. How could anyone know that song? Those lyrics? And sing/hum it in just the right way?

With an eerie gasp, I realized it was coming from me. As I transitioned from the headwall to the flat, it was suddenly obvious that I must be the one singing my dad’s ski song. I was the one who was bum-bum-bumming in time with my turns. This was my dad’s song, the one he sang when he was in the groove. His song, his rhythm, his turns. And now here I was, singing the same song, in the same way and, holy cow, was I skiing as smoothly and beautifully as he did? Was I making his turn shapes and flowing through the moguls?

I hadn’t heard that song since my dad passed away over eight years ago. But I was hearing it now, loud and clear. I don’t believe in the supernatural but I would swear that my dad was there last Friday, skiing down Superstar right beside me. Right where he would be if he was still alive, bumping his way through the day and loving every minute of it. He would have skied all day, then tailgated in the parking lot with the best of them until mom had to pick him up so he could pass out listening to the Yankee game on the radio. My dad would have been in his element and I can only wonder what kind of crazy outfit he would have worn to ski his favorite trail.

Damn, I miss him.

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