Carnes: Warmly celebrating a (very) large number (column) |

Carnes: Warmly celebrating a (very) large number (column)

Richard Carnes
Valley Voices
Richard Carnes.
Special to the Daily |

Last Thursday morning at 6 a.m. it was minus 9 in the parking garage at Denver International Airport.

My toes were frozen stiff.

Last Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. it was 81 degrees on a beach just north of Naples in Florida.

My toes were happily wiggling in warm sand.

Adding the two together, there was a 90-degree temperature swing in eight short hours (two-hour time difference) that our previously frigid Happy Valley bodies had to deal with, but the much more important “90” was the reason my wife and I were in Florida in the first place: my mother-in-law’s first day as a nonagenarian.

Wait, before you put the paper down or switch tabs to Google it, don’t bother as I’ve already done it for both of us, and it means she turned 90 years old.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why, Richard, are you sharing this with us? To rub it in that you’re basking in the sea level warmth of sun-filled southwest Florida while we’re freezing our tootsies off at 8,000 feet in the Rockies?”

To begin with, I’m not that shallow, but yeah, sure, of course, that’s part of it, duh (I assume after 20 years that at least a few of you have read my stuff before).

But the bigger picture is that she has survived nine flippin’ decades in such a screwed-up world, and her take on it is (in a very strong Danish accent), “It’s not that bad now. You should have seen it in the ’30s and ’40s.”

She doesn’t mean age, but the actual 1930s and 1940s.

Born and raised just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark, she lived through the bombings and war-torn poverty of German occupation during WWII (and we moan like little school girls when the internet goes down for five minutes).

She became a chemical engineer, married a chemical engineer, and together they came to America, created an international chemical company, and basically lived out the world-famous American dream that has now become a nightmare for so many of today’s immigrants.

They learned to ski right here on Vail Mountain during the late ’60s, eventually owning property in Beaver Creek, Bachelor Gulch and still today in Eagle-Vail.

I want to make it to 90. Barring extreme disabilities of some sort, who doesn’t?

Like the majority of us here in Happy Valley, she has spent a lifetime taking care of herself with regular exercise, a proper diet and decade after decade of having her priorities straight when it came to family and career.

And although she kept skiing until her early 80s, the inevitable knee and back issues occurred, and she, of course, found relief right here at the Steadman Clinic.

While it indeed takes a great deal of perseverance and perhaps a little bit of luck, making it to 90 and beyond is an impressive achievement.

We should all be so lucky.

But please go ahead and wipe away those crocodile tears, as by the time you read this we’ll be back home, freezing our collective backsides right next to you in the lift line.

Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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