Pat Turner’s memoir reminds us that we can learn from our setbacks
Since publishing a memoir that chronicled her inspiring journey after losing her leg in a car accident in 1965, Pat Turner has been transformed into a passionate promoter of the book. “I’ve gotten very brazen,” the retired educator and long-time ski enthusiast told me with a laugh. Her book, “Skiing Uphill” tells about her struggles, setbacks and achievements since the one-time Entiat High School student has experienced.
Turner carries copies of the book wherever she goes and it has prompted her to engage with strangers and invite them to learn about her book. Invariably, when people hear her story of resilience and overcoming life-changing obstacles, the message resonates. Turner sells a lot of books by inviting people to learn about her story.
This transformation is not something that Turner envisioned when she was encouraged to write her story. Instead, it’s just a wonderful byproduct of pouring her heart and soul into a book that she believes might help people face the challenges in their own lives. Everywhere she goes, she has copies of her book close at hand.
Turner is one of five individuals who shared the wisdom they have gained during their lives at Snowy Owl Theater on Sept. 10. They’ll also be sharing their stories at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center on Oct. 12. See theripplefoundation.org for more details.
Since last December, she’s sold some 850 copies of her book by her own efforts. There’s not a lot of money to be made in writing a memoir, so it’s not exactly going to produce a financial windfall. But making money was never the point of writing the memoir, anyway, she told me.
Turner has made the most out of her opportunities and hasn’t let the loss of a leg keep her inactive. With the help of Otto Ross, the legendary ski instructor who still teaches even though he’s in his mid 90s, she learned to ski with outriggers and went on to compete in national and international events. Skiing again helped her regain that sense of freedom and joy.
Along the way, she has sustained serious falls that set her back. She adapted and persevered. As a teacher, her missing leg became a way to help students think about their own struggles. Her disability is apparent to everyone, while most people’s wounds are not as easily seen. Everyone has wounds.
Turner has never fully forgiven herself for her decision to go to Wenatchee on that snowy evening that resulted in the horrific car accident. She regrets that her choice forced her parents to risk their own lives on that winter night driving to the hospital. Some wounds are hard to heal.
Most of her moments are spent looking forward. She certainly has an artistic side to her nature. She paints rocks with fun, inspirational messages to strategically place in public places around the valley and also creates bookmarks to give away as a way of sharing gratitude.
Skiing Uphill is a deeper and fuller exploration of Turner’s life. Introspection was not something she indulged until the book project. It has allowed her to share in more detail the highs and lows of living with a disability. Even though the accident happened 58 years ago, Turner has never quite forgiven herself for going out on a snowy night and getting into the accident that changed her life. It is a reminder that we carry some wounds with us for our entire lives.
Writing her memoir forced her to make some meaning out of what has happened. Every decade brought new challenges and setbacks that she had to address. Those challenges got increasingly difficult from a physical standpoint.
With every copy she sells and every interaction she has on airplanes, in restaurants and at public events, Turner spreads her message that one can use life’s setbacks as inspiration for living one’s life to the fullest extent. I cannot think of a more important message to share.