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.

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