Stories: Who We Have Lost
Who did you lose to Covid 19? Jody Settle
“Every time I see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I got is a photograph
And I realize you’re not coming back anymore.”
-By Ringo Starr and George Harrison
“You might want these,” my sister says as she hands me two photographs. It’s Christmas morning and I’ve joined her family to celebrate the holiday after a three-year gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I look at the photos – one of me and one of my late partner, Jody. We’re dressed in ski gear at the base of one of the ski slopes at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. As I look at Jody’s photo, I realize that this is one of the few photos I have of him when he was walking. It would be just a few months later that he would experience a severe exacerbation of his multiple sclerosis that would leave him using a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Thinking back to that day, that wasn’t anything we anticipated. I just remember how much we laughed.
It was a typically gray winter morning, the Saturday of the President’s Day weekend in 1988. Our friends, Joe and Rob, picked us up early at Jody’s apartment and we headed from the city toward the ski resort in Connecticut. The traffic was light and we arrived within ninety minutes. Then, the “fun” began.
None of us had our own gear, so the first stop was the rental shop where we were fitted out with skis and boots. As a first-time skier, I should have known trouble was in the offing. It seems that ski boots are designed to make you lean forward so your legs are in the proper position for skiing. As for me, they made me feel like I was going to fall flat on my face… but that would come later.
Joe and Rob were experienced skiers so they headed off to the more advanced ski trails. Jody, intended to hit a medium level slope, but dragged me over to the place where I would get my “introduction to skiing” lesson. He gave me a quick kiss on the lips and headed off to his trail, leaving me to my fate.
Once he was out of sight, I looked around to see that I was the only adult amid a swarm of preteens. The instructor demonstrated all the basic movements involved in skiing and had each of his pupils perform them. He had to give me extra attention because I was slow in catching on. In fact, I was the only one who fell on his butt – repeatedly. And, to think, I paid extra for all that embarrassment.
After each of his runs, Jody stopped by to see how I was progressing. One time, he arrived in time to see me arrayed in all my glory, face down in the snow, having tripped over my skis. I was mortified, but after watching him laugh, I could see the humor in my ineptitude.
Gradually, I started to improve and I was declared ready for the “bunny slope.” Jody was off on one of his runs so my first runs were done solo – thank goodness. I would fall and get back up and continue. Eventually, I finished a few runs without a problem. By then, Jody had returned and he skied with me on the bunny slope giving me pointers and suggestions for improvement. We skied for hours and, while I can’t say I was thrilled with the overall skiing experience, I was elated to spend the time with Jody.
Late in the afternoon, we caught up with Joe and Rob and returned our rented gear. We stopped for a meal before heading back to the city where they dropped us back at Jody’s place.
Long hot showers helped loosen up the normally unused muscles we had taxed that day, and we fell into bed, dropping into a deep sleep dreaming of the next adventure we hoped would come.
Gazing at the photo now, I have to smile — we were so young, still bubbling over with the love shared by a new couple. Jody was so happy that day. His diagnosis of MS had weighed on him and that day helped him to forget those cares at least for a while. I don’t know if he realized it or not, but he proved to me how caring a person he was by interrupting his own ski runs to check on me and my progress. Over the years, Jody always insisted “I will walk again,” and did everything he could to maintain the strength of his legs. From time-to-time, a smile on his face, he would even say to me “we should go skiing again.”