"It is good to have friends who understand that there is a time
for crying and a time for laughing, and that sometimes the two
are very close together."
Today was the my Story Century, a century to a quaint spot that is kind of in the middle of nowhere with no really good way to get there. I adore the middle of the century, but the first and last have too much flat farm land for my taste. I endure the flat fields for the middle of the ride which has some rolling hills, low traffic, and tree lined roads with new scenery.
When I scheduled the century, I did not realize I scheduled it on a holiday, and I thoroughly expect Story to be overflowing with horses, riders, motorcycles, and tourists when we arrive. People can deal with it. I warned people prior to the ride, prior their arriving, as well as warning them of gravel roads and possible detours. Perhaps this was not the wisest thing, as when I get to the start there are only three others who have come to ride, all of whom are normally faster than me but are really faster than me at the present moment: Jason Willis, Matt Tinal, and Steve Rice. I also find that for some weird reason, I scheduled the start time at 7:00 a.m. I never start rides at 7:00 a.m. unless there is a really good reason to start them that early like extra distance. But oh well, they are nice about my lateness and it gave Steve Rice time to get there before we start as he had e-mailed to leave a cue sheet as he was running late. There was a time when making this mistake would have mortified me and I would have been very embarrassed, but today I take it in stride. I am determined to be kind to myself this year. I am glad they are following suit. I still am not up to par, but I am moving forward out of the rut I have existed in for what seems like forever.
My husband, my love, is gone. There is nothing I can do to change that fact. Perhaps the greatest gift I can give him is to become more compassionate and more understanding, not only of others, but of myself. Perhaps the greatest gift I can give him is to live what is left of my own life well because we never know what life will hand us. There are no do overs. One friend told me shortly after my love's death that he was glad I posted Lloyd's picture from when we were younger on Facebook because he had only known him after the constant pain and illness had sucked so much life out of him making him old way before his time. And there was that, but he was a very private person, difficult to know. And in the end, looks are transient. What is important is the inside of a person. I decide to learn from this, or as my mother used to say, "Make hay while the sun shines." Rain comes, sometimes unexpectedly.
At the start of the ride, the clouds lightly scatter the sky, but the weather person has said they will clear for a lovely afternoon. And they do trail away, almost without my noticing, leaving a pale blue sky and brilliant sunshine in their wake. While we are not burning the roads up, we are doing a decent pace and nobody seems to be miserable. It is not long before I am cursing my jacket wishing I had been bolder about the morning chill. I tell all of them to feel free to ride off, that I do not expect them to wait for me. I have my camera and I know the way. But we do most of the ride together. I even make it through most of the hills in the middle of the ride with them though I feel quite certain they are modifying their pace to accommodate mine. One thing about riding a bicycle: you can always slow your pace some, though for many it is difficult and they do not enjoy a ride if they have to do this, but you can only increase your pace so much unless you want to bonk mid-ride. It is inevitably hardest on the slower person.
We reach the first store stop only to find that like so many small country stores, it has gone out of business. Luckily, because I am thirsty and have not been drinking, a few miles up the road is a second store that was a control during the Indiana 300K last year. We stop briefly, and head on. While I had thought that perhaps the holiday week-end would bring traffic, thus far the traffic has been light. It actually remains that way the entire ride other than a short stretch when we near Brownstown.
It is during this middle part of the ride, my favorite part due to the green lushness, that I ask about lunch. I like to eat in Story, but I don't want to hold everyone up. The food there has always been superb, but the service is normally slow. Matt tells me that Jason does not normally eat lunch on a ride, and Jason tells me that because of this Matt has brought "pocket chicken." We briefly puzzle about what this is thinking that it almost sounds like something "dirty" when suddenly, Steve suggests that Matt has found, intentionally or unintentionally, his Mad Dog name, and I realize that I am laughing, really laughing, and it feels splendid. And I laugh even harder when he stops for a bathroom break and says he is going to drain his pocket chicken. "She suddenly found herself laughing without bitterness." (L.M Montgomery). I think briefly of how Lloyd made me laugh with those crazy sayings of his and I think that was a big part of why I fell in love with him. His humor was so similar to my own, a rather odd type of humor per my children. And I am not bitter at the memory. Yes, there is still longing, regret that we only had thirty five years together, but this laughter is good and filling and somehow healing. And perhaps I am no kinder than I was before, because Matt does not like his new nickname, but still the laughter peals from me making it hard to breath as I pedal up the hill. And I realize it has been quite some time since I have laughed like this. And I am thankful for friends that bring brightness into what had become a dark world. And I am thankful for friends that do not make me feel that I should not laugh as it has only been five months since my husband passed, but laugh with me.
When we reach Story, the line is short outside, and we actually get our food more quickly than we normally do on rides. The barbecue looks good and Jason decides to eat. And it IS good, though a tad sloppy: all my food there has been delicious. Matt does not get a sandwich, and I refrain from asking if has has eaten his pocket chicken;-) But he patiently sits with us while we eat. Briefly I think that I would probably ride much faster if I watched my diet as closely as Jason and Matt watch theirs, and not just because I would be skinnier. Perhaps another day.
And. as rides do, the ride ends and people leave. I begin to suffer leg cramps about ten miles out from the end, but I am pleased to have made it that far without cramping up as I just have not been riding as I normally do and I have ridden as hard as I could most of the day. I laugh as I clean up after the ride because both legs cramp in the thighs when I try to get out of the bath tub. What if I can't get out? I no longer have Lloyd to save me from the silly things I do to myself. And for a moment, I am on the verge of crying, because laughing and crying are, as Lois notes, close together. And I am worn out. But I manage. And each time I manage an obstacle without his help or advice, I become a bit more confident.
I am lonely, something I have only really realized or admitted to myself in the past few weeks, and I wish I could share the days happenings with someone as I did with Lloyd when he was alive, and so I share them with you if you are interested. If you are not, you quit reading this or never started. And I hope your day was as pleasant as mine has been, despite the leg cramps and exhaustion.