Parents reflect upon their son’s life
From the base of Kirkwood Ski Resort, Annette Sidon fondly recalls teaching her son to ski 25 years ago by taking him to the top of “the Wall.”
Skiing close to her son Gregory, age 4 at the time, the two made their way down for what would be one of the many runs that would fill Gregory Sidon’s life with pleasure.
Even after Gregory Sidon lost his eyesight and suffered kidney failure at age 20 during a bout with lupus, the young man’s love for skiing only died when he himself passed away last September.
Sidon, who would have turned 28 last December, lived most of his life in South Lake Tahoe, even after his parents moved away prior to the final, painful seven years of his life.
Sidon’s mother and stepfather, Elias Sidon, last month presented a plaque to Kirkwood to commemorate the resort’s contributions to their son’s final years of life.
Kirkwood, in conjunction with Discovery Blind Sports, allowed Sidon to continue skiing despite visual impairments that limited his eyesight to about two feet.
“(Skiing) was his life,” his mother said. “That’s what he lived for.”
Annette and Elias Sidon, who adopted Gregory, spent some time at the resort Saturday reflecting upon their son’s life.
Annette Sidon is working on a book about her son titled “Do You Hear the Howling.”
The title is a metaphor for the sound of the wind that a skier hears when he or she cascades down a slope, she said.
It also refers to the howling of a wolf, just as the word “lupus” is Latin for “wolf.”
In his mother’s eyes, Gregory Sidon howled like a wolf by standing in defiance to the ailments that eventually claimed him.
During the 15 years prior to his death, Sidon spent about half his time in hospitals, being treated for seizures, kidney problems and other ailments associated with the disease.
In between these hospital stays, Sidon remained active. In the summer, he camped and waterskied with friends, and even rode his bicycle into town despite limited eyesight.
But it was downhill skiing that he really lived for.
“(Skiing) gave him something to look forward to,” his mother said.
Lupus patients suffer abnormalities caused by reactions in their immune systems. The disease slowly attacks internal organs.
In Sidon’s case, failure to take medicine on a timely basis in 1989 caused his blood pressure to rise so drastically that it caused his eyes to virtually burst, his mother explained. At about the same time, he suffered a heart attack and kidney failure.
The ensuing disabilities left him feeling like there was nothing to live for, his parents said. It was a short time later when the young man heard about Discovery Blind Sports and returned to the slopes.
Discovery since 1979 has trained guides and arranged ski trips to help the visually impaired enjoy skiing. Kirkwood donates lift tickets and equipment rentals to both skiers and guides in the program.
This year, about 100 skiers of all ages with varied visual impairments have skied at Kirkwood under the direction of their guides, said Signe Berg, the coordinator for the Discovery program.
Late last summer, Sidon admitted himself to Barton Memorial Hospital with strep throat. From there, he was transferred to Washoe Medical Center for evaluation of his progress on dialysis.
On the afternoon of Sept. 21, several relatives spoke with Sidon by telephone in his hospital room. They all thought he sounded healthy.
Later that afternoon, Sidon went into a seizure that killed him.
His parents, both artists who now live in Guerneville, Calif., are philosophical about their son’s life and death.
Annette Sidon referred to taking care of him as an ongoing mission.
“The mission has changed,” she says. “Before, it was more about helping him through his medical problems. Now, it’s more about his memory. I am still very much involved in his life.”
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