Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Maturity’s season never ends
Ryan Summerlin March 4, 2013
“Your season is over.”Four words hard for anyone to hear, but even more so for a nervous eighth-grader attempting to lie still on a cold table at Vail Summit Orthopaedics last Monday morning.I watched as my son’s young heart broke before my very eyes, the pieces crumbling to the floor as so many tears. Not doing too well myself, I did my best to appear calm for all the right reasons.Pulling his ski cap down over his eyes, he allowed emotion to take over for a few moments. No one else in the room could blame him in the slightest. Extra words would merely have been a waste of air.The positive side of the moment (since it stood out like his swollen knee), was the man delivering the cold hard truth was the same doc that just a few weeks previous had saved Lindsay Vonn’s knee, and quite possibly her career. Dr. Sterett’s bedside manner was truly admirable as he explained the “tibial tubercle avulsion fracture” discovered in my son’s right knee. In a nutshell, the patella tendon had ripped a small chunk of bone from the knee, small enough to not require surgery yet large enough to end the most successful alpine racing season of his young life.Sure, he’s only 14. But through the opportunistic programs offered at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy he has raced competitively for seven years, with 15 top 10s and two podiums already this season.Without a doubt, the young man loves to ski.The past five months were spent training for the Junior Championship qualifiers at Crested Butte the previous week. On the very first day, he had a goofy fall, resulting in the ill-timed injury. Four days spent on crutches in the finish area, watching his teammates compete for the coveted qualifying races as he hobbled around cheering, yet seething on the inside for what he knew would have been his best results yet.But life’s unexpected twists came into play instead, resulting in what all kids come to dread as yet another one of those damn “character building experiences.” Limping out to the truck in the brace he will come to hate over the next six weeks, we were both silent, our collective minds busy contemplating the perceived fallout to come, each giving the situation more credence than it probably deserved.I wanted to remind him that the ski season would be over for everyone in a mere six weeks, and that he could use the time to heal his already painful “Osgood-Schlatters” that he has dealt with for the last year in both knees (a painful swelling of the patella tendon in young athletes). He could get ahead in schoolwork, maybe take guitar or voice lessons (both current passions), or any number of exciting new challenges. Yet although some of you may find this hard to believe, I sometimes actually know when to keep my mouth shut.The silence screamed volumes.”I’m going to be a jerk over the course of the afternoon,” he suddenly shared about halfway home, lessening the tension in the cab by a factor of 10. “So let me apologize now before it happens …”Smiling, I thanked him, and inwardly could barely contain my pride at the maturity of such a statement, knowing full well the next 24 hours would be the worst yet. Emotional ramifications have to be thoroughly vetted before perspective can be understood, especially at this age.But, wow, the ability to preplan and recognize crappy teen angst behavior before it even occurs? While his ski season is over, his time as a reality-based observational adult is just getting started.Richard Carnes of Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.