3.31.2015

My Dad: Matthew Giles Reeder


Life: they say it goes by in a flash. 
Well, the flash that I had with my father just wasn't long enough. 
For several years now I have been gearing up for the phone call -
we all knew he was ill. 
That phone call came far too soon.
It has left me emotionless. 

It has been hard for me to sit down and write about him, or really just write in general. I have become a rebel to my nightly journal entry...twenty years from now I will regret that. I have taken on far too much at work, trying to create a distraction from my emotions...that was just dumb. I have tried to distract myself with exercise, only to be sidelined by numerous injuries. 

My amazing stud of a father departed January 29th, 2015. I was boarding a plane to go to the Phoenix Open - I stood there in tears, with absolutely clue what to do. I got on the plane. Then I arrived in Arizona only to soon get back on another plane and to be in the comfort of the bed that I had left 18 hours prior. The hardest phone call ever in the world is to hear that someone dear has passed. For weeks and weeks, I had been working on a letter to my dad - I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, how much I respected him, and how he was so heroic to the ski industry - I wanted to let him know he embarrassed the crap out of me a few times with his unsolicited commentary and opinions of my boyfriends. We had such a special relationship: one that only a daughter and a father can understand. I wanted to tell him how angry he made me sometimes, and the amazing person I have been able to grown into due to these trials and tribulations. I wanted to tell him how much we all loved having Cole around and their true and honest love that permeated anyone within 5 feet of them. I wanted to thank him for putting me on a bike; because I have to admit...lately getting on a bike has been one of the hardest things on earth for me. I miss my dad - days go by that I feel completely emotionless; like today and probably tomorrow and most likely the day after that. 

My dad had been diagnosed a few years prior with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as ALS. Being that hard ass that my father was, he almost wanted to spite the doctors when they said eating would be difficult and he would have to take it easy. I mean, he was planning on having Caribou for dinner on Christmas. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease - there really is no cure, however, there are processes to slow everything down. My dad's process was dark beer and bourbon. 

He called me in June 2012 (I believe) - I was at work. He asked if I had a moment, so I walked into our little kitchen behind my desk area - carelessly saying: what's up? He then told me that he had been diagnosed with ALS and very bluntly told me what this meant: I am going to die. This was followed up by a slew of e-mails, tears, confusion, regret and uncertainty about what laid ahead.

For those of you luck enough to know the amazing Matthew Giles Reeder, you know he was a person of devotion (and no, I am not talking in the religious sense...that would be weird). A true snow god. A man that would get shit done - seriously! He didn't believe in short cuts, you did everything the right way - especially if it was something laboring. And if you couldn't do it the right way - well, step aside because he would do it, and do it correctly. To me, he was my East Coast Cowboy - I can close my eyes and see him wearing his Stetson Hat, with his Dale of Norway sweaters most likely pairs with a pair of pleated khakis or Carharts caked in grease and numbers and notes jotted down in pen from phone calls - his outfit would be perfectly finished off with either tassel loafers, work boots or the ever so great wool socks and Teva sandals combination. He could show you how to easily tie a square knot in a silk scarf; which he claimed were the best thing for staying warm - I have to admit I agree.

My dad's enthusiasm for making snow and riding bikes could possibly be unrivaled. He would always act perturbed when snow making season would start - but - inside he was little a giddy little kid. Making snow, calling the shots, chanting his various radio calls throughout the freezing cold nights was his thing. During the summer months riding a bike was his thing - he was the one that caught my interest in road biking - and the one who took the time to find me a coach, and teach me the exact methodology behind when to kick-it-into-gear on a climb. We would always race up Donner Pass - before he knew it, he was telling me "see ya at the top" and I would crunch down on my gears and go! My cycling always tended to be a large speaking point when asked 'how are the girls doing?' - and he could always answer with 'Lizzie climbed Donner in 19 minutes', etc. 

One of my favorite stories of my dad was when he told me about how picking your nose would make your nostrils big. I am still nervous to this day to pick my nose - because of him I prefer the blowing into a tissue method.

In Aspen, my dad used to drive me to school in the morning in our red Saab - which he insisted if it lived long enough would be mine once I could drive. It was a time without cell phones, so we would actually talk in the car - well, actually we would normally be signing along to ZZ Top or Jimmy Buffet. Cheeseburgers in Paradise...

Although my dad was hard on the outside, made of ice some may deem, he was my dad and I loved him for his strong attitude. I loved his sense of courageousness. He was normally the comforting voice on the other line when my college-sorority girl life seemed to be  in complete dismay - always reassuring me that everything would be okay. When I received the news that my dad had passed, all I could hear in my head was what he had told me many times before: Lizzie, you've got to stop crying - I can't understand what you are saying. Honey, stop crying. 

I got a new job a few weeks ago - as soon as the papers were signed I excitedly grabbed my phone to call my mom, and then...call - well, no one. That was like a punch to the gut - reality has began to set in, there will be no more excited phone calls to dad to tell him about promotions, maybe marriage, hell - potentially even kids. 

In April last year, I had a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my dad during Easter, which had almost become an annual trip since I moved to Southern California. After seeing my dad, I had a feeling this would be the last time we would ski together (although he was skiing up until the very end from what I understand) - as I followed behind him, and his amazing crew of ski buddies I couldn't help but let the tears burst from my eyes and tried to un-fog my goggles - it is hard knowing this could be 'your last'. Although others reassured me we would ski again, deep down I knew this was our last hoorah. He was still on telemark gear - matter of fact, I even saw him whip out a few drop knee turns that day. I have it on video, thankfully.

One of the other amazing moment that came out of this trip was when my dad decided to share his newly approached outlook on life:

Forget about the past, because if you can't you will be bitter. 
I've learned there is nothing you can do about it - so forget about it. 
When those around you are bitter - you learn to grow from it. Chances are that person will hate it. They will hate that you are being positive and not giving in - 
you have shown me you can do this for years now 

Matt wanted to ultimately do two things these last few years - neither of which he was able to achieve, which leaves my heart-aching. For years and years, he had worked on scheming a plan on how to work in the mountains in the winter and live at our family camp in the Adirondacks in the summer. I can see him now, sitting on the front porch overlooking Raven Lake sipping on a Bourbon and water. Every summer he claimed he was ready to make the move, ready to go to his favorite place on earth. Well, that is where he will be forever, up at Camp. 

He was always interested in various modes of transportation - this however caught me for a surprise. The train seemed to be something he grew fond of upon his move to Truckee - since he would drive by the train depot every day. I can't even tell you how many times he suggested the train as my transportation from Southern California to Truckee - I never did it. My dad had come up with a brief list of things we wanted to do, and we sat around one night and he told me about his wishful endeavors. One of those being riding the train - however, it wasn't just a quick ride to Reno or Sacramento - no, he wanted to take it across the United States..to go to Rochester. He told me: All I need is my phone, a computer and a handle of good bourbon. I would sleep through Nevada, be awake through the mountains and sleep again until we reached the Great Lakes. He even knew that trip would take him a total of 44 hours. I wish he would have been able to do that...

The only things that I have of/from my dad is a pair of pearl earrings I received when I turned 16 and a button up Woolrich shirt - which he claims my mother shrunk, but it was also his favorite shirt. The last Christmas we spent together he gifted me a silk scarf, which he quickly tied a square know in - I have it hanging in my closet. I will keep those three things so close to me for the rest of my life - kind of funny you don't think about how precious little gifts like that are when they are originally given to you. 

I just wish I could get one more Matt Reeder hug, one more day of skiing, one more day of biking. I want to tell him I got a new job, that I made the Rapha Ambassador team again, that I started doing yoga, and have become a bourbon drinker. I want to hear his silly little giggle - and see that proud smile on his face. 

Xx


***I wanted to leave these words as his actual obituary - because he was far to RAD to be left with such a simple - slightly untrue collection of words.