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Monday, April 20, 2015

Bethlehem Century on a Spring Day

"Good friends help you to find important things
when you have lost them.....
your smile, your hope, and your courage."
Doe Zantamata

It has been raining, dark, and dreary for what seems to be an eternity and I have not gotten back into my regular habit of riding after getting home from work.  But this week-end Saturday is predicted to be gorgeous, sunny and warm, before returning to the gloomy gray that has bathed every nook and cranny of Kentuckiana recently.  If the old adage about April showers is true, then May should be absolutely teeming with flowers.  I briefly pity the ride captain because I feel sure that I am not the only slothful person who has been unable to drag themselves out the door and thus is woefully out of shape. This is also a difficult ride for me because it is the route I had to cancel in December the day after my husband's stroke. Bethlehem, a route I put together years ago and normally have in December so that Christmas cards to friends and loved ones have the Bethlehem postage stamp.  I toy with staying home, but know that however difficult it is I must look forward.  How I wish I were brave.  Sometimes I still think of myself as feeling like an animal in a trap must feel when it chews off a limb to become free:  I miss him so much that I would do almost anything to escape that pain.  But unlike the animal, I know there is no true freedom there through drugs, alcohol, suicide.

I wish I could say that my faith is so strong that I never doubt that I will be reunited with him in heaven, but it is not.  I just am not as strong as he was.  I believe, but I question.  He never seemed to do so.  I still talk with him in my mind, and sometimes I can almost hear his answer, but it is not the same.  The thought of never seeing him again, of never hearing the sound of his voice, of never seeing him smile, is almost unbearable.  How I miss his humor and how he made me laugh.  I would have married him on that basis alone.  But there is no other viable choice, so I try to focus my thoughts on being grateful.  I am a mother and despite the fact my children are grown, I continue to believe that they learn from me and that I must set a good example.  One foot in front of the other. As my mother always said, "This too shall pass."  And death and dealing with it is just part of the human condition.

Today is also the Kentucky 400K, but I have decided Paris Brest Paris is definitely out for me this year.  While there is a part of me that regrets this decision, that knows that my husband would be disappointed in this decision, it is the decision I have made for various reasons, rightly or wrongly.  Too much money to spend when I am unsure if I will enjoy it and with things so unsettled emotionally and financially. Too much planning and thinking when I am not on top of my game. Recently a friend noted that I don't deal well with uncertainty. There is truth in that observation, but seldom in my life has everything been as unsettled and uncertain as it is now.  At least now my not going is a certainty and perhaps I will not overly question my decision and I will be at peace.  I have not qualified and I have requested my refund from Des Perres. 

So there is no need in doing the 400.  Indeed, there is no desire to do the 400K.  Briefly  I wonder if that too has been taken from me or if, in time, the desire will return again.  I realize, however, that it can only be taken from me if I allow that to happen.  Some days it is just hard to get out of bed. I long for him in dreams and still he does not come and things are the same when consciousness rudely invades my sleep.  I am broken and he cannot fix me as he did in the past with his words and his caresses.  I find I have no regret about not having to get up early and riding the brevet other than missing those early morning hours on the bike in the cool, soothing darkness just before the sun comes up, when the day coyly promises and beckons and the world is mysterious and full of possibilities. 

I am surprised at the number of riders at the Forestry when I arrive.  With "Thunder Over Louisville," a local fireworks display, being later this evening and the traffic it will cause, I expect a small turn out.  But I am wrong.  Larry, "Gizmo,"  has his drone up photographing the ride start.  It is the first time I have seen  a drone and initially it startles me until Lucky tells me what it is.  Nancy generously gives me a Mad Dog coffee mug saying she has them made for the women that rode last  year. I briefly think of  how kind people have been, and how loss has given me a new perspective.  I hope that I can become kinder, less judgmental, more compassionate, that I learn from my experience. After briefly chattering with friends, some of whom I have not seen for quite awhile, Troy, the ride captain, gathers everyone around and then we are on our way, wheels spinning and colorful jerseys brightening the roadway.

Despite my rather gloomy attitude, I try to smile and make conversation with friends, and I find that I am interested in what they have to say.  So much has happened since I have had a chance to visit with some of them.  Joe is nice enough to compliment my writing and this blog, and his attempts to make me feel better cause me to find my smile, however temporarily. And gradually I do feel better, more like old self.  Spring has truly arrived and the red bud trees are brilliant  their color lacing and intertwining with the green promise on nearby trees.  Wildflowers line the road in places.  Fields remain empty as of yet, but they begin to show the promise of the coming planting of crops.   I can almost feel the frustration of local gardeners and farmers longing for it to quit raining long enough to do their work. I momentarily puzzle whether I will plant anything this year. I find myself caught up in the beauty, in the rebirth that is spring.  

Lucky is riding his fixed gear, so I ride much of the day with him.  We talk about the spring and about the brilliant greeness this  year. Despite not seeing him often for a number of years, it is like coming home, this riding with a friend that I have spent so much time with in the past.  We briefly reminisce about the first Tour De Mad Dog and conclude that while it is a much larger group now and the dynamics have changed due to the increase in members, it is still a group of very nice people.  And I find hope  in the thought that change does not mean that everything is lost, that nothing will ever again will ever be quite the same, but that different does not necessarily mean bad.  And I find my courage in that hope.

Like so many rides on a pleasant spring day that are shared rides with friends, this ride ends all too quickly and I do my extra lap around the forestry to get my 100 miles.  Life goes on relentless whether we take his hand or get dragged kicking and screaming.  Things happen and we  cope the best we can.  But how much easier everything is with a bicycle and some friends.  Thanks, everyone.