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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Failed Century

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.
Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow.  Let reality
be reality.  Let things flow naturally forward in whatever
form they like." 
Lao Tsu


A few weeks ago, when it became apparent that my mother was not going to recover this time, I took a leave from work and moved to the Northern Kentucky area to move her home.  Working with Hospice, I brought her back to her own home and helped her die.  For close to two weeks, I did not get over one hours worth of sleep at a time.  As the sleep deprivation began to take hold  I could not help but think that this was much more difficult than a brevet, but that brevets prepared me as well as anything could for the sleep deprivation aspect.  Perhaps a weird thought to have in the midst of caring for the person who is responsible for your being here and who you love, but one I had nevertheless.
During the time I cared for her, there was no bicycling, no running, no physical activity other than the demands of changing her and meeting her needs.  She died last Thursday, surrounded by family, holding my hand, as we talked about memories that centered around her.  By we I mean the family members present.  For two days prior to her passing, mom was completely uncommunicative.  Prior to that, she still had some verbal abilities, however limited.  I had forgotten how drained one gets dealing with death, as if the life inside was sucked out as if offered in exchange for a few more moments.  At 99, it was time for her to move on since age had brought a loss of the delight of being alive and was a chore rather than a joy, a burden that she longed to put down.  But still I had forgotten the total exhaustion, both mental and physical that follows significant loss, the feeling of helplessness at the inability to change things and to make them better.  And selfishly, there was a part of me that wanted her to get better, to be around for just a bit longer. So perhaps I should not be surprised at my failure today.  I sent out to do a century ride and threw in the towel at 67 miles.  

Mentally, it took all I had to force myself out the door.  I honestly did not want to ride.  No, it was not that cold.  It was around 40 degrees.  No, it was not that windy:  7 to 8 mph.  It is just that feeling that I did not want to ride which would be fine if there was something that I wanted to do, but there was not an one can only sleep for so long.  Perhaps if it had been sunny?  I doubt it, but perhaps.

The first thing I notice are all the cinders on the roads.  I had forgotten we had ice.  In the country and in a poor county with little money, salt is scarce, so country roads are covered with cinders.  This is not a problem for cars, but bicycle tires are a different story.  The cinders contain sharp little black pieces that lodge themselves in your tire are are camouflaged by their very color.  So when the cinders were thick, I stop to wipe my tires thus noting that my rear tire is long past the time when it needs to be changed.  I have a spare tire that I carry with me, it is a rear tire, and I have no long, thrilling descents on today's route so I decide to move forward and risk getting a flat.  Good decision on this occasion as I make it home with no incident.  While it is not so cold that changing a flat would be a huge issue, it is cold enough that I know my hands would be uncomfortable.  Tires become unforgiving in the winter, hard and less than pliable.

The recent rains have flooded most of the easier routes, so I am heading toward Vernon.  I don't make it there, but I still get in close to 70 miles.  It is a dog day.  In that 70 miles I swear I must encounter 70 dogs.  None of them are vicious or appear to mean business.  They are just doing what dogs do:  alerting owners that someone is passing by.  Water stands in fields and on places in the road, the ground so saturated that it has no place to go,  and I realize that if I do a century, I am going to have to make some changes to my traditional route.  I can't say that I am miserable, but I can't really say that I am enjoying myself so at the first store stop, a bit over 30 miles in, I decide to get something to eat and just ride home.

This is more of a "thinking" ride than a ride where I thrill at the world God gave to us.  I think about how fortunate I was with my husband that there were very few unresolved issues, and how I wish I could say the same with my mother.  I think about the difficulties I encountered writing the obituary, and how it made clear to me that I knew mother less well than I knew my husband, and how I wish my brother had not asked me to write it.  I think about my own end and what I can do to make things easier for my children.  I think about changes and about life is all about changes and how difficult it is to accept those changes and flow smoothly forward safe in the knowledge that good things are waiting right around the corner, that there will be more bad things, but that we develop the strength to deal with those things through past adversity.

The end of the ride comes and I remain depleted.  Still having walked a similar path in the past, I know this is the direction I need to head in.  I know I am doing okay if I can make myself get out the door.  And I know that eventually I will complete a century again. 

"Motherhood: All love begins and ends there."
Robert Browning



Victoria Francis Smith, the daughter of Richard Martin Perry and Norah Blanche Perry, age 99, passed away on January 19th, 2017. She was preceded in death by her three brothers and three sisters: Ralph Perry, Kenneth Perry, Victor Perry, Gladys Perry, Mary Perry, and Sara Ashcraft.

Victoria grew up to marry Dr. Robert Charles Smith and put him through medical school while working at the American Book Company. She enjoyed playing golf, was an avid Bridge player, was a Scrabble fan, and was known for her wry sense of humor and her ladylike ways. After the children got older, she worked in the EEG department at St. Elizabeth's and St. Luke's hospitals and was later employed by the Covington Boys Club, Krogers, and then Kings Island. She retired from Kings Island in her eighties where her co-workers lovingly called her "The Walking Dictionary." Her favorite story of her time at the Boys Club was when she walked in to find a snake the children placed in her desk drawer. She said she knew that if she screamed or reacted, there would be a snake there every day, so she forced herself to calmly pick the snake up, take it outside, and let it go.

She leaves behind five children: Victor R. Smith of Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert Christopher Smith of Cincinnati, Ohio, Marc T. Smith of West Chester, Ohio, Pamela A. Reed of Covington, Kentucky & Melissa F. Hall of Scottsburg, Indiana and daughters-in-law, Karen & Christina Smith. She also leaves behind numerous, much loved grandchildren: Charles Reed, Christopher Reed, Dian Reed, Emily Smith, Derek Smith, Lauren Smith, Ashley Smith, T.J. Corcoran, Natalie Corcoran, Justin Smith, Mary-Victoria "Tiffany" Hall, Jeffrey Hall, and Elena Hall. Additionally, there are eight great-grandchilden: Meghan, Quinn, Aidan, Ronan, Caitlin, and Keelan Corcoran, Caroline and Ian Smith

The service will be for family only and will be after her ashes are released by the University of Cincinnati where she donated her body in the hopes that knowledge could be gained that would help others to live better, healthier lives in the future. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her name to The Covington Boys and Girls Club, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati, 600 Dalton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45203,