Thanksgiving

Deuce8mos

A friend I don’t get to ride with very often came into town and joined us for our Wednesday ride today. At some point, after we’d done the chit-chat about our riding lives, he asked, “So how’s the rest of your life, the part I can’t read about on RKP?”

It was then that I resorted to what has become my standard line regarding 2013; “I won’t lie. It’s been a hard year.” Not counting checkups for the kids, I’ve spent close to 60 days of the last 13 months inside hospitals. I’m aware there are times when I behave with a shell-shocked detachment. In that yin/yang cycle of riding between discharge and recharge, I’ve been in months of recharge. I haven’t been doing many group rides and the ones I’ve been doing haven’t been the fastest ones; I choose groups that are small. I’ve ridden less than half the miles this year that I rode last year.

Most days, the Deuce’s stay in the NICU is less a memory than a memory of a dream. It doesn’t seem real, but all I need to prove just how real it was—and remains—is to look at one of his scars. I still struggle with the words, “We nearly lost him.” Of course, “lost” is but a euphemism, a soft-soap way to waltz with the concept of death and maybe shield our eyes from the full view of what that experience was.

And we’re still dodging bullets. While I was at Interbike I received a text message from my wife informing me that Matthew would need physical therapy because his neck had a limited range of motion. The nurses who tended to him were always at his right, so while in the incubator he looked up and to his right to see them. He is paying a price for it now; he has trouble turning his head left. His head is also slightly misshapen due to all that time in the incubator and the doctors were concerned that he might need a helmet to put things right. Fortunately, they say he’s not so bad that it’s required. Sure, he’d improve more quickly, but we’re told that by the time he enters kindergarten he’ll be as normal as you or me.

There’s a greater truth to what these challenges mean, what they add up to. When I look at the Deuce, I see a miracle. Not in the crazy violation-of-physics way, or even the modern-medicine way, but in a much smaller way, simply staggered by the sheer unlikeliness of the outcome, of his continued presence and ongoing growth. Now nine months old, he’s 30 inches and 21 pounds, all of it against the odds.

photo-25

So, yes, I’ve got much to be thankful for, plenty to be thankful for and my gratitude is something I have the good sense to note, to breathe in every day.

But that’s not all I want to express my thanks for today. I need to thank you readers. I’ve got at least a half dozen different reasons to be grateful for this readership, but the one that’s on my mind right now is your indulgence. When I launched RKP I really didn’t intend for it to veer into such personal material to the degree it has at times. In the case of the Enter the Deuce series I didn’t have much choice. I did what I needed to in order to get through. I wrote my way through the experience and I suppose part of the reason the events seem so dreamlike is that I spent dozens of ours typing as I sat in the hospital. I may have taken in events primarily through my eyes, but they were processed through my fingers.

The degree to which you indulged me is yet another miracle to me; this time miraculous not because it couldn’t happen, but because life just doesn’t work this way. Allow me to explain; two or three days before we were able to bring the Deuce home I decided to finally check Google Analytics see what the damage was—that is, just how much our readership had fallen while I’d abdicated my seat.

Our numbers held steady. It was unlikely the way a nine point earthquake is unlikely. While it can happen, it just doesn’t. A couple of weeks later at the Sea Otter Classic our ad sales director, Wayne, tried to explain what I’d been up to and I finally cut him off and simply said, “For more than a month, I wasn’t really doing my job, but our readers stuck by us.”

You did me a kindness I’ll never forget.

,

17 comments

  1. Patrick O'Brien

    RKP is more than just a website about cycling. The writers on this site, including you of course, produce art in words. It is not just dry technical drivel meant to churn up the number of hits and advertising revenue. You don’t have to be a cyclist to enjoy this site, but reading RKP is likely to turn you into one. And being a cyclist can help you cope and overcome the problems, both large and small, we encounter in living. Long live the Deuce!

  2. Wisco

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Although we have never met, I feel we are friends. Your willingness to let us into such a personal thing as the early days of “The Deuce” was risky but showed your faith in us, your faithful readers. Someday I look forward to that proverbial ride together.

  3. Mike C

    Padraig,
    I started reading RKP just before the deuce was born. The articles you guys write touch me deep down in ways I’m unable to put into words.
    When Matthew was born and you began writing about your struggle, it struck even deeper. See, my youngest daughter was born with bilateral hip displaysia. Nothing like Matthew’s problems but as a parent dealing with all the unknowns, the hospital stays, the traveling and multiple surgeries, I felt a connection with you as a parent. Hailey is almost 16 now and thanks to the shriners, she is as healthy as the next kid.
    Look at those scars and never forget the time it took you away from RKP. Matthew will somehow know that you were there day by day and your bond with him will be unshakeable. We readers weren’t going anywhere else. ..

  4. Dave D

    Keep it up! I love the site. I loved it when you were here, when you were gone, and when you came back. May it continue for many years and may you always know I am thankful for you and for your wonderful team. Happy Thanksgiving!

    P.S. I hope to ride with you again next year on a Paso.

  5. Timojhen

    Agree with the comments around the value of the non-cycling posts, and how struck I’ve been by the Duece, who I’ll likely never meet, but who has left an impression on me.

    All the best to you and yours, and my fellow RKP readers. It’s the life between the rides which make the rides so sweet.

  6. Rod

    Padraig,

    I think that you’ve managed to build more than just a conventional blog/ad/reader relationship. Even though I don’t know anyone in these pages personally, it feels like a well developed community.

    It’s is not Thanksgiving here (we had it last month), but I’m still grateful to be a small part of the RKP readership.

    As for the Deuce – he looks great in the photos!

  7. Andy

    We all have lots to be thankful for – everyone in this community (or not) got to see another sunrise for openers. We write, we talk, we love our families & friends. We take in the outside air like it was the food of our souls. Not being thankful is unthinkable to me.

    You hit a point with the Deuce’s scars. When I see my grandson’s laughing eyes (he laughs a lot) he’s a regular 10-year-old kid – mischievous, curious. creative, fond of puns and (still) hugs. If I shift my focus up about two inches I see the scar he’s had since March 2008. It starts below & in front of his left ear and continues up his skull across his hairline to a point above his right eye. That’s where the surgical team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia peeled his face down when they drilled between his eyes to take out as much as they could of his brain tumor.

    The scar reminds me of the stories my daughter told me of the nurse on the helicopter – “If he survives the ride we’ll talk about the treatment options”; the surgical team at a preop conference “If he survives the weekend we’ll operate on Monday”; and the oncology team after surgery “If he survives the week we’ll talk about his prognosis.” Clearly he’s beaten the odds, which puts him and Matthew in a league apart.

    The scar also reminds me, as Deuce’s does you, and I suppose every family member of a child in a similar place, how fortunate we all are who have people we can love and care for; not only those whom we nearly lost (euphemism noted) but those we did lose and those for whom it’s not even a hint of a blip on the radar.

    Hug all of them and enjoy the ride; on the bike or off. Deep thanks for reminding me to think of all the really important stuff.

    The point is there are lots of us who can be grateful

  8. El Tejan

    Our eldest son (now 12 years old and 5’10″!!) had plagiocephaly and torticollis when he was less than a year old as a result of sleeping exclusively with his head to the right. As I look at the picture of your son, I can see the telltale signs of the eyes being slightly differently shaped, just like they were with our son.

    We opted for the helmet which our son wore 23 hours a day for about 8 weeks. He was a trooper. Didn’t seem to mind much at all.

    If you have any questions from one parent to another, you’ve got my email so please don’t hesitate to use it. Regards.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thank you for your kind words. I’m always disarmed by the depth of what you readers will share in the comments.

      El Tejan: Man, I got the taste of a 9-volt battery in my mouth when I read those words, plagiocephaly and torticolis once again. Learning about that was a nasty knock. We’ve been through a consultation and the doctor who saw him came to the conclusion he didn’t really need the helmet. And physical therapy will take care of the stiff neck. I’ve learned I can relax about this, but it’s terrific to know that there are others I could turn to for experience and strength.

      Thank you, all of you.

  9. Steve

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    In this day of McDonald’s food, ersatz news, fake reality TV, Hollywood lives, &c &c, folks respond to sincerity and realness. That is what you all offer – on two wheels. Keep it up.

  10. dmyoungsal

    I have not read many of “Enter the Deuce” stories, but with the few I have and the other posts throughout the site, I have come to love and appreciate this sport more and more.

    It is because the details of the races and technical specifications are left to other sites to spew. What we are privy to are the feelings of the authors about we we most likely ponder as we ride. It is through these feelings that I am compelled to go home and jump on my Bianchi and let the rubber feel the road.

  11. Hautacam

    Dude.

    It would take a train wreck of epic proportions to keep me away from this web site — and, of course, “web site” doesn’t even begin to do justice to RKP, especially during the Enter the Deuce period.

    This is the only web site I feel that way about, cycling-related or otherwise.

    Enter the Deuce is/was one of the best things I’ve read in a long time, and easily the best thing I’ve ever read on the web that was also produced for the web. Fat Cyclist’s “Dandelion Seeds” is another. I think you (and Fatty, to a certain degree — love you, Fatty!) are gesturing to what is possible in web-based journalism, just as Bike magazine and Outside magazine did in print a couple of decades ago. Your work points beyond the subculture of cycling to the larger truths that cause us to go riding in the first place.

    For that, I am thankful.

  12. TominAlbany

    The reason RKP works for me is that it’s about cycling AND life. You and Robot do a great job in the Mind section of this site. Your product reviews are excellent and thorough. Your discussions on the state of they industry are also very good. However, it is the ‘Mind’ section that really brings me back. We are not automatons. We are people with diverse interests and also busy lives. Struggling to find balance is something we all relate to. Your mind section usually inspires and/or provokes. It’s why I kept coming back.

    You did exactly what any of us would have done with a kid in the hospital. You dedicated every fiber of your being to it. While you processed it through your fingertips, you really didn’t. You processed it in your own MIND. It just took some tappity-tapping to get your MIND through it. Much like my best thoughts are had on the bicycle or while running or while watching a baseball game. You seem to have yours on the keyboard and on the bike.

    Cheers, Padraig. I wish you a minimum of drama from this point on!

  13. Thomas

    I checked in today after not visiting for sometime. my interest was not cycling so much but a thought about Deuce.I have a Daughter who is about his age. It is great to see he is is doing well.

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