Joe Kurmaskie, AKA the Metal Cowboy put up a great post today about his bike trip across Canada with his wife and three kids in tow. I complained about my 40 pounds of panniers in Idaho, but Joe is pulling a tandem bike with tag-along and trailer, "400 pounds of flesh and metal" through hail and high water. My grandmother thinks I'm quite the adventurer, but Joe makes me look like the laziest of couch potatoes.
Still, I do what I can, and this morning I headed out on the roadie, after removing the Bessie seat post rack. Two water bottles and a bottle of Gu and I was off. Though I cut down on the physical weight, emotionally, I had plenty to bog me down. This ride wasn't just a ride but an experiment in alternative therapy.
I gave in and started therapy last month. Amazing how you can have a lifetime of good memories and a few months of horror can over shadow everything. It's getting better, but slowly. There's purgatory between the time I get in bed and the time I fall asleep where my brain has too much time to go down some pretty dark paths. My therapist suggested I could do a version of EMDR on myself while biking. It turns out maybe you really can pedal your pain away. Or something like that. At any rate, biking is cheap and therapy is expensive so I thought I'd give it a try.
My instructions were to find someplace where I wouldn't get run over and then, while pedaling, deliberately bring up the traumatic event for a few minutes, then 'come back' to the present and examine my mental state. Repetitions of this supposedly help to process the traumatic events so you can move past them. Oh how I really want to move past the trauma.
I headed for the Marine Drive path, just 5.3 miles from home. I wasn't anxious to get started, figured I'd wait till crossed Columbia so as not to be interrupted. Just then a biker passed me going the other way and I just made out, "The road's closed!" before the wind whipped her voice away. Sure enough I crossed Marine Dr and a truck was making it's way along the path--part of a repaving project.
Great. But the point was not to wallow in misery for hours after all so I decided the 3/4 mile strip between 33rd and 42nd would do just fine. I re-crossed the road, sank down into my aero bars and descended into hell. Six trips back and forth reliving the ambulance ride, the ER, the doctors asking how much they should do when we shouldn't even have been there in the first place. The last words she said to me, "You are the best care taker." that's when I remembered one really should bring tissues to bike therapy... Turning off the oxygen and waiting and waiting and waiting... Prayers around the bedside, playing Mahalia Jackson and Sweet Honey in the Rock and singing to her. That whiny sound she made every breath that cut through me like nails on a chalk board. Sleeping on the hard bench in the church chapel with the bright lights above. And that last van ride home where she slipped out on us as soon as she had a quiet moment. Just me and her in the van, and me worried I'd get in trouble for showing up with an empty shell instead of a daughter, sister, mother...
At each end of the path, I came up for air, clawed my way back to now, hanging into the hum of tires, the flowers by the side of the road, the feel of the wind, planes soaring over head. In small chunks it still SUCKED, but it was a little less...present.
Coming home, I pedaled extra hard. Pedaled against the wind and pain and anger. Pedaled against the time when I can't pedal anymore. And took some comfort in knowing that I cherished her for all the time we had her.
While we were cleaning out her room, we found a letter I wrote to her that she kept her whole life:
Sunday June 27th, 1999 6:55am:
This is the first day in weeks that I've been able to sleep in and here I am up before 7am. I even turned off all the phone ringers in case anyone called...so why am I up?
I had this horrible, completely vivid dream that you were dead. I didn't know it was a dream. I hate when that happens. It was some freak accident (not even a car accident, freakier than that..like you were bitten by some dealy insect or came down with some really fast disease). In my dream I was spending the night somewhere else and people tried to call but I had decided I didn't want to be reached for a day so all the ringers, pagers and cell phones were off. So I found out from a voicemail the next day, when it was too late to say goodbye even.
Then I was running all over the city trying to find the hospital you were at. I stopped by home, looking for Traci and found her and then we were both wandering together. Dad was at the hospital with you but he was no help (some thing snever chance I guess) and we never did find you. I finally woke up just a few minutes ago, feeling terribly sad, terribly relieve and really pissed that I could even have such a horrible dream. And worried. It's early, but perhaps I'll call Liz's place when I'm done with this letter and make sure you're really alright.
There is a good part though and it is this: When I was dreaming and I thought you were dead, I was thinking to myself, "Well, at least I didn't waste any time. We had great times together and we liked each other and I have more good memories than I can count."
Hopefully, you already know how much I love and appreciate you and like spending time with you but, after a dream like that, I figured it wouldn't hurt to say so, and write it down so you won't forget (the mind is the first thing to go... :-) Years ago, I saw a movie once about a little boy who was dying of AIDS and his mother would say, that every time a really special moment came, 'her heart took a picture.' I loved that idea and I've been doing it ever since. And I have so many 'rolls of film' I've lost count. I take them when we're playing around trying to give belated birthday spankings, during the nightly zrrbt, when we're all sitting around playing Taboo, when Traci is trying to stall to avoid going to bed. You guys may have stolen my camera, but I have all the best shots anyway.
I feel so lucky every day. Even though things suck sometimes and we're still getting it together in a lot of ways, there's really too much to be grateful for to complain. I think that most people I know couldn't live with their parents for a week without killing them. But we don't just get along or tolerate each other...we have fun. the more time we spend together, the more I like hanging out with you. I brag about you to all my friends you know, and most of them are jealous that I have such a cool mom. We've got it pretty good.
And that dream, which I'm still getting over, must've just been a reminder to let you know. So there it is. Drive safe on the way home and I'll see you when you get here.