(Grand)father’s Day: A heaven-sent moment at Loveland Pass
Aside from riding in an airplane, this moment at 11,990 feet was the closest my mother had ever been to the clouds — the proverbial heavens. And what a heaven-sent moment it became for our family.
In late April my mother, my three sisters and I took a trip up to Loveland Pass during a family vacation. The vacation was my immediate family’s first time visiting Colorado, a special and different experience for natives of New York City. I taught them how to ski over three days at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. We rode bikes along snowbanks by the Snake River in Keystone. They saw moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the wild for the first time.
At the end of the vacation, I couldn’t help but think how proud I was of my parents and three sisters for taking up the inherent adventure in the Rocky Mountains with great energy. At the start of the week, I thought maybe one or two of them would prove ambitious enough to ski from the top of A-Basin’s Black Mountain Express down to the Mountain Goat Plaza base area by the end of their stay. Maybe we’d make it out for two days total to the Basin. I was soon proven wrong as, come Friday, the final full day of our vacation, all five of them expressed interest in heading up to the Basin for a third day. Truth be told, after a couple of days of teaching, they had tuckered me out. But I was glad to join them at the ski area at the Continental Divide for one more postcard-perfect day of trying new things. It was the four of them, including one with a fear of heights, skiing by themselves from the top of the Black Mountain Express. The fifth and final one was my mother, Eileen, who stuck to the Molly Hogan Lift. But, boy, did she rip that bunny hill up for a long-tenured New York City Public Schools teacher!
It was the evening prior, though, on Thursday, April 24, when we had the most surreal moment of a vacation full of memories. After my mom, my three sisters — Annie, Kelsey and Alexis – and I finished up skiing at A-Basin, I asked them if they’d like to go see Loveland Pass. I told them with all of the recent spring snow, and the partly cloudy conditions, it would be worth the windy drive the few miles up from the Basin. So we headed up in our rental minivan and parked next to a towering snow pile.
Seconds later, as we neared the Loveland Pass sign at the Continental Divide, I heard my mom speak up suddenly.
“Are you NYPD?” she asked.
I turned around and my mother was speaking to a trio of people wearing dark blue New York Police Department baseball caps. You know, the ones the New York Mets and Yankees wore after the September 11th attacks? Soon enough, while I showed my sisters around the Loveland Pass snow piles, pointing out mountains in the distance, my mother delved into a conversation with the trio. The three were here on a quick jaunt up from a national policing conference in Denver. The conversation went from a quick “hello, how are you,” to a 20-minute hang-out session braving chilly, Rocky Mountain winds. My mother told them of how her father, Charles Beissel, was an NYPD officer for many years after he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. The new friends found the moment quite ironic. How serendipitous on their and our first times at the Continental Divide — where the country’s Eastern Slope meets its Western Slope — for New Yorkers with NYPD connections to meet amongst the clouds?
For me, the moment was almost a spiritual one. I, personally and historically, have not been especially devoted to a singular religion. That said, I try to keep an open-mind when it comes to things such as spirituality, divine-intervention and a greater meaning and purpose. With that, I can say this: How funny for us to meet NYPD members at this exact moment in time, at the Continental Divide, when my mother and family were as close to the proverbial heavens as they’d ever been before? At the least, it can make a man think. It sure made me wonder.
As the NYPD officers drove back east, we headed back west with our own baseball caps as mementos. About 36 hours later, we drove over Loveland Pass again, this time in a conga-line of cars after an overnight snow storm. For those in the car afraid of heights, it certainly was an experience. Thinking back, I couldn’t help but ponder — knowing the family’s tales of my grandfather’s fun-loving personality and sense of humor — maybe this was a joke he was playing on our family. One final hello and goodbye.
Or, so I thought. After I returned to my car once my family had flown away, one final mysterious thing happened. As I sat down in the driver’s side, I smacked my head on the driver’s-side visor that I, apparently, had pushed to the side before I’d last left the car.
Massaging my head, I couldn’t help but smile. Why, you ask? Because my earliest childhood memories of my grandfather, before he passed in 1994, was of him purposely hitting his head on the top of the passenger side doorway whenever we’d pick him up for a day with Grandpa. It was his way of amusing myself and my twin sister, two young children at the time, sure to giggle from their car seats in the back row of my mother’s Chevy Nova.
With that, as I look up to the heavens, I say this: Happy Father’s Day, Grandpa. And thank you for providing an unexpected Grandfather’s Day in late April at Loveland Pass, a heaven-sent moment I’ll never forget.
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