Friday, September 24, 2010

Learning to Fly, On Two Wheels

When I crashed the motorcycle, I crashed more than a Suzuki 250. Thanks to integrated crash bars, and the fact that I was going under 30 mph and making a left turn, I wasn’t really injured. I had a small bruise on my right upper arm from where the handlebar bumped me. My left arm and shoulder were sore and jarred because I gripped the handgrip so tight and forgot to let go, once I realized I was about to go down. I managed to keep my right leg clear from under the bike, and the riding coach was close enough to hit the engine kill switch that, in my confusion, I was unable to remember. He helped me right the bike, and told me to get back on and get going.
So, for awhile, I did.

I knew learning to ride was a stretch. I’m closer to 50 than 40. Thanks to some old injuries, including a 12 foot fall from a tree six years ago, I have damage to my neck and back that is not getting better with time. After a minor twisting fall last September on our wedding anniversary, I’ve spent most of 2010 in physical therapy, taking steroids and having spinal blocks on my neck to keep my discs unbulging, and a veritable alphabet soup of painful and debilitating conditions at bay. On my worst days, upright mobility was a stretch. On my best days, I was walking and moving fairly normally. Maybe taking this class really was a bad idea after all.

When I realized I couldn’t feel a thing in my left hand, and I was having to look at the clutch to see if my fingers were actually moving when I thought I was shifting gears, I knew it was time to quit. The rider coach was shouting at me to shift up and go faster. Instead, I pulled over, hit the kill switch and fumbled with the latch of my helmet. He strode up in the no-nonsense way that only a former Navy Senior Chief can do and started yelling at me. I looked at him, flipped up my face screen and said, “No way, Senior Chief. This isn’t my bag.”

I don’t know what surprised him more: that I’d figured out his former rank or that I was giving up. I parked the bike out the way, collected my stuff, shrugged and headed to the car. It wasn’t until I got there that I let the tears come down. It really did stink to give up. I hate giving up and admitting I can’t do something. Accepting the limitations of an aging and battered body is becoming a more frequent challenge. It hurts to look at myself as getting older. Hell, it hurts to fall off motorcycles.

So, I went home, where I found a surprised Norwegian. He consoled me for my hurts, but praised me for trying in the first place, and also for knowing when to cut my losses. We traded our beloved rooster to some farmers. We had lunch. We delivered Dear Daughter from one activity to another. We sat on the couch with the dogs and watched the light rain turn into sunshine.

Then, we drove to the Vespa dealership.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vernal Equinox

Alas, my poor starveling little looks a lot like my garden this time of year. Both are shriveled and withered, neglected and wasted. Not that I don't think about them both a great deal of the time. Despite my best intentions, I've allowed a great deal of time to come between this post and the previous one.

And for that, dear reader (for I see, I still have one follower), I am heartily ashamed. You see, in my heart, I still think of myself as a writer. But how can I be a writer, if I don't make the time to write? And if I am truly a writer, what could be more important than writing?

But good grief, has it really been nine months? I could have produced an entire human being in this interval, much less an occasional blog post.

Motivation, or lack thereof, has been a recurring theme in my world this past year. It's lacking in most areas of my life these days. I stay busy--there's always plenty to do, and I have good ideas--but I'm not much on following through anymore. I'm not sure if it has to do with my age, the pressures of our sandwich years, work, a combination neck and back injury last year, the possible progression of a chronic illness or what, but I'm slipping, folks, and it's not a good feeling.

Recently, in an attempt to kick-start (literally) my life, I took a class. While some women my age are picking up scrapbooking or golf or oeneology, I took a motorcycle driving course. I'd reached the do-or-die point where, having never even been ON a motorcycle, it was simply time to try. So I paid my money and I took my chances one warmish Saturday afternoon. The classroom portion was easy. The driving portion, mmm, not so much. My chronic neck injury crap has damaged the nerves in my left arm and hand enough that riding the clutch on a motorcycle isn't exactly safe for me. I rode for about an hour, trying to fake my way through, covering the fact that shifting gears was not just hard for me, but not really possible. It was about an hour after surviving my first crash (blessedly minor) that I gave it up, and helmet in hands, went home to contemplate my next move.

Which, three hours later, turned out to be go out and buy a scooter with an automatic transmission.

(next post...learning to fly--on two wheels)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For unto a child is born...

What I would like to say about Christmas, but Melissa already did it so well. Enjoy. And yes, it is a few days early, but Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Beautiful Day for a Birthday

Today would have been my mother's 75th birthday. Somehow I think spending it in heaven might be even better than spending it here, even though the sun is shining brilliantly. Happy birthday, mom.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Truth About Santa Claus

My nearest sister called me yesterday with some tragic news: her youngest daughter, who is not quite 10, found out the day before that Santa Claus is not real. Or as her newly-enlightened classmate who told her put it, "your parents have been lying to you all this time."

My niece is the youngest member of our collective family, so this sad milestone is particularly grievous, as it is the stark demarcation between childhood and the Real World. This marks the moment in time when all her childhood beliefs and fantasies will come into question under the harsh light of reality and be found wanting. Innocence is set aside and is replaced with sly knowing and a gradual forgetting of that in childhood that is sweet and accepting. As Abby passes through this portal, the generational shift moves perceptibly further down the line. Her newfound knowledge reminds me of my own aging, my own loss of childhood joy, my own crumbling mortality.

The year she turned five, Dear Daughter turned to me while we were decorating our scraggly artificial Christmas tree. It was still just the two of us, living in a small apartment with our little bird and our hopes and dreams. "Mom," she said. "Are you lying to me about all of this Santa Claus stuff? Because if it's not true, I don't want to have a tree or presents or Christmas or anything."

My heart sank to my shoes. Who could have been so mean-spirited as to cast the shadow of doubt in the heart and mind of my sweet, trusting little girl, and at such an early age. I pulled her to the couch and we sat and looked at our tree with its polyglot of ornaments--pine cones rolled in glue and glitter, cut-foam figures coated in buttons and marker, a construction paper reindeer with a preschool photo glued to its flank, and assorted strings of beads and lights. We talked about Christmas--the infant Jesus in the manger, the gift of a loving God. We talked about Advent--the candles, the waiting, the time of examining ourselves. We talked about St. Nicholas of Myra and his care for children and how he came to be the figure we know as Santa Claus.

I told her that Santa is most certainly real. That even if there isn't really a man in a red suit with flying reindeer and sleigh, he is real in the love that makes the miracles of Christmas happen. Santa is real in the excitement and preparation that surrounds the season. Santa is real in the love that we share when we give and receive gifts. Santa is another reminder of the love we are given from God through the baby Jesus. Even though we choose to portray him as a portly old man with a smoking habit and questionable fashion sense, he really looks like love.

Dear Daughter was satisfied with this explanation, and even years later her own eyes were opened by an older cousin, it wasn't a traumatic moment, because she'd already rationalized it in her own mind. Santa still pays his yearly visit to Dachshund Downs, and she's every bit as delighted at 14 by the magic and sweetness as she was at four. I'm sorry to hear that my niece is upset about finding out the "truth," but I know she'll be all right. Santa will still come to her as well, because Santa is love. Santa is magic. Santa is real.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Resurfacing, or I haven't been there for the longest time

Hi, um, it's me again. I know I've been away awhile. I've missed being here. I've missed a lot of things, actually. For the past six months I truly feel like I've been floating inches below the surface of a murky pond. I could sort of see what's been going on above the surface, but not quite. The world kept turning after my last post, but I haven't truly been an active participant--I think "passenger" describes it much better. I don't know who's been driving the bus lately, but it surely hasn't been me.

At least not the me I mean to be.

I knew losing my mother would be hard, but I never dreamed it would be this catastrophic. I thought I would handle it better than this. I was wrong. I was so wrong.

I've had some very good days. I've even had what-passes-for-normal days. But the bad days have been beyond my wildest nightmares.

I'm better now. I hope that's going to last. It's two days before Thanksgiving and, thanks to a combination of a stupid not-quite-fall on our wedding anniversary in late September and a few even more old stupid accidents (what, indeed WAS I doing 12 feet up in a tree in 2004?), I'm entering week nine of treatment for spinal stenosis, spondylosis and a host of other unpronounceable neck and back issues that have left me so weak, exhausted and irritated that I can't safely lift anything more substantial than a spatula.

Still, we're going to have a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving surrounded by dear people and good food. I am thankful for so much this year: my dear husband, who has stuck by me when I surely wasn't any fun to be around; my precious daughter, who brings light, beauty and joy into my life every day; for my friends JenEMac, MelBoe, NavyK8t, MarciaMarciaMarcia, Annette, MelanieS, JenEstes, Cindy and so many more who were just there; for good memories; for the passing of time; that mother didn't linger...

I'm thankful that God has given me the kick in the rear end that I not just needed, but so richly deserved. And even more thankful that He is raising me up slowly enough that I can fully appreciate the scenery on the way back to myself.

I'm almost there. Bear with me just awhile longer. I'm thankful for you, too.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The End of the Journey

Mom died today. She had been living with us for three weeks. She was hospitalized twice for sepsis in April, and during the second stay they discovered four new tumours. She immediately requested hospice. We kept her in her home until the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, then moved her in with us at Dachshund Downs. This afternoon, she simply stopped breathing.

I don't have the words just yet to describe what caring for her has been like, or why it should matter to you too that she is gone. All I know right now is that my mother is gone and that's a void that can never be filled.