Enter the Deuce: One Year

Enter the Deuce: One Year

I knew this day was coming. I was even looking forward to it, for marking a year is how we celebrate endurance. Still, as I typed the title, I found myself getting choked up. Those words, “Enter the Deuce,” take me back to a place scarier than the underside of any car, harder to fathom than any prose written in the Middle Ages. But they are also a reminder of how thousands upon thousands of people I don’t know, not to mention hundreds that I do know read with rapt attention Matthews difficult entry to this world.

And the reason those days are still so difficult, the reason that despite our relief at his blossoming is both simple and yet inverted. Fifty years ago he wouldn’t have survived his first hour, but now, a year later, he’s so much more than he was that morning. He’s got a personality that is happy, sunny enough to engage even people who don’t like babies and an appetite that seems to be a rebellion against all that time on a feeding tube. This. This is what we almost didn’t get. The more he is, the more I see what we would have lost.

And so how is he? He’s fine, in broad strokes. He has no lingering issues from the chylothorax effusion—that leaky doohicky that collapsed his right lung and forced the NICU to recommend what was ultimately a very successful surgery. That said, all that time in the NICU on his back in the incubator meant that he was starved for human interaction and he became very proficient at turning his head right and looking up so he could see his nurses when we weren’t there, which was a hell of a lot of time given the best we could do was usually only 10, maybe 11 hours per day. And there were days I missed. That still hurts.

So our little Deuce was really good at turning his head to the right and looking up. Turning his head left? Well, on that his performance was lackluster. We couldn’t fault him; all the incentive was at his right. It also meant that his head was a bit misshapen. A bit flat on the back and to the right and his right ear was forward of his left ear and stuck out a bit, in comparison. So there has been some physical therapy and a bunch of exercises and any time I hold him I try to position him so that he will have to turn to his left to see what’s going on. We visited with a doctor for a helmet evaluation and she said he was on the bubble, diagnosis-wise. She recommended against it, telling us that by the time he enters kindergarten he’ll be fine. Honestly, we’ve seen such an improvement just in the last two months, I have to really look to find the issues. He looks like a normal baby.

All that time in the incubator had another effect on him; he started moving around much later than most babies and the fact that he’d picked up a fair amount of weight with no corresponding increase in strength meant that he was really behind in learning how to roll over, sit up and crawl. As a matter of fact, he’s only managed to start getting his knees under himself in the last week. So he’s a bit behind developmentally. That could have happened even without the NICU, so I’m not worried.

In my last post about Matthew I shared that he had a couple of visible scars and my hopes for how they might fade over time. I’m pleased to say that the last time I made an effort to look, all I could find was the biggest of them, at the incision site for the tube that drained the fluid from his chest.

Of the many goals I had for RKP when I launched it, posting highly personal stories wasn’t on the list. The circumstances that took us down this road continue to amaze me. Had there not been such an outpouring of support following my crash, I could never have published the “Enter the Deuce” series. But there’s no question I would have written it, so I can’t help but wonder how RKP would have suffered as a result. There were some slightly awkward meetings with potential sponsors at the Sea Otter Classic. Wayne, our ad sales director would try to explain, delicately, that we had deviated a bit from our usual content for a few weeks. Eventually, I just started volunteering, “Look, I didn’t do my job for six weeks. But it didn’t hurt the readership.”

There are rules against that, you know?

So here again, I have to say thank you. Your support bolstered me through what was a nightmare existence in which the stress got so bad it compromised my balance on the bike. I had to stick to flat rides for more than a month. You also bolstered a site that might not have survived had you not been willing to tune in to read about a baby you had no reason to care for. That continues to make me wonder.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t understand the reasons the bunch of you continued to read, but at root there is a simple and mysterious human act. You bestowed on me a kindness. I’ll be grateful for it to the end of my life.

So we’re going to have a bit of a birthday party His Tininess the Deuce this Saturday, February 22—the Deuce’s actual birthday. I am compelled to invite each of you reading this. If you’re in the greater LA metropolis, you’re welcome to join me for a ride  Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon, we’ll have a little picnic at a local park complete with food and beverages (some benign, others less so). If you’re interested in joining us and raising a glass to the Deuce, drop us a note or friend me on Facebook and I’ll add you to our invitation list.

Again, thank you for your support. Now, if I can just get him to sleep through the night.

,

47 comments

  1. P Poppenjay

    Padraig, You have bestowed the kindness to us in sharing Enter the Deuce. You have spoken from your heart, your grief,and taken us through your angst and triumph so beautifully and vividly. I thank you for sharing this fierce journey with us. God bless you for taking us with you.

  2. David Colahan

    I’ll raise a glass in the Duece’s honor. I came here because I’m a cyclist. I stay because we’re people who love to ride but we also love the people who love to ride. Their stories motivate us, they empower us.

    They’re our stories and I love to read them.

  3. Dean

    Padraig, I’ll use this post to pose a question to you that I have been struggling with. As a father to two young boys, I’m wondering if I should dial the road riding back to avoid the typical dangers we cyclists currently face. Honestly, without the fragility of a young family this thought would never enter my mind. But I don’t need to tell you how important it is that dads be there for their kids. And I’m sure you witness as much texting/driving as me. But I will add that I live in an area with low car counts and relatively safe roads. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks everyone. It’s times like this that I feel George Bailey rich.

      Dean: I struggle with that question. It’s possible to ask in many ways, not just traffic. Getting off the bike is the wrong answer, at many levels, not the least of which being that we all need that release valve. I addressed some of how I’ve been considering these issues in a post just a few weeks ago called, “Taking Stock.” I think it’s easy for us to think that once we’re parents, it’s time to hang up the cleats and focus on our kids. I believe that my parents’ generation did too much of that, same for many of my friends. I believe that I have a duty to my sons to show them a fully formed adult, one who still actively engages the world. Just what that looks like isn’t an absolute, though. It’ll change from person to person, and it seems likely that the answer I arrive at this week won’t be the one that works next year. All the best answers are difficult to reach, right?

  4. Linda

    His birthday is the same as my dad’s (and of course George Washington). Wish I could be there to celebrate with you. Thanks for taking the time to write an update.

  5. Michael

    Hey Padraig, My daughter had a different but also a very difficult entry into the world (and unfortunately has aftereffects that continue seventeen years later, like epilepsy). A benefit to your Enter the Deuce series is that he may have a lot of interest in reading it as he gets older. My daughter still loves to hear stories and look at photos of that period, of which she has no memory of course — she needs to know it to figure out how she has come to be who she is. These early formative events become part of us, even when we don’t have conscious memories of them.

    Dean: I think about the same things a lot, but agree with Padraig in general. One thing I did was involve my daughter in my riding and running. We have a tandem that we ride together – if I feel her having a seizure, I can stop and help her and she is not careening into traffic. We’ll go touring together on road and dirt this spring down in southern AZ. She gets why her mother and I ride. But the dangers from cars? We discuss those a bit, and agree that it is important to be out there for our health and to help others by making cycling safer in numbers. But you can’t talk about that with a four year old! No easy answer with a young family. My childless brother does say I descend like a father. I beat him on the ascents instead.

  6. Peter Leach

    I’ll raise a glass [of something less benign] on Saturday afternoon to help celebrate the Deuce’s first birthday.
    Like many others, I was gripped by the ‘Enter the Deuce’ series.
    Like many others, I’m glad that your “… not doing your job …” has no real impact on redkiteprayer.
    Like many others, I’ll look forward to learning more about the Deuce’s life experiences told through your words.
    Ride forever.

  7. Jan

    Happy Birthday to the Deuce! And thanks for the update.

    It says something about the community you’ve created here at RKP that it didn’t hurt the readership, and helped a lot of us feel closer as a community to read the Deuce’s story.

  8. Andrew

    Awesome. Happy birthday to you all. Our third child got the helmet for a while. No big deal. Their heads are so malleable. Enjoy your party!

  9. Luis Oliveira

    Man, I’m not good with birthdays and such. My wife has to remaind me all the time, including her own (there’s a history here.) Still, I know The Deuce birthday by hearth and was expecting this post.

    I read your site every day (it’s on the RSS reader), but I never comment in any other post. Don’t get me wrong. They’re good and you write from a personal perspective that’s quite interesting and refreshing. But The Deuce posts are different. They move me, still.

    Thanks. And keep them coming.

  10. Michael Schlitzer

    Fantastic. I followed your stories a year ago and am very happy to see your son make it through this first year. After his first months, it’s all easy from here on out.

  11. TominAlbany

    Happy Birthday, Matthew! Tell your daddy that you’ll be waking him up at night at least until you’re 5 or so. Maybe even longer. It’ll just be less frequent. Note: My kids like me to re-tuck them when they get up to pee. They’re 5 and 7. I’m glad they do!

  12. Ron Callahan

    Patrick –

    So good to hear about the Deuce’s crawl towards normality.

    Normal doesn’t sound like much, but as a parent (and as an ‘older’ father), ‘normal’ is pretty darn good when it comes to kids.

    Like Dean (above), I struggle with the balance between the little time that I have to spend with the kids every day (less than 3 hours on a good weekday) and spending time on the bike. For my own sanity and health, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the trainer after the kids are asleep – but even that affects the time I get to spend with my wife.

    We talked about that recently. Fortunately, she gets it. She knows that I’m happier and more communicative when I get exercise than when I don’t.

    I still have concerns about safety on the road that have, at times, made me consider ditching the road bike altogether and hitting the trails. Still, there’s nothing like the feeling of the wind in your hair and dicing it up a little with friends that a road ride gives.

    Racing? The risks just don’t balance out against the rewards anymore. Even with good health insurance there’s just too much that can go horribly wrong.

  13. papogi

    Hearty congratulations to the Deuce for the first year! That’s a great picture of what is clearly a healthy and happy child. It’s a nice genture, Padraig, to include this community in the celebration. I live in Lancaster County, PA, so I won’t be joining. I’d sure like to though!

  14. MattC

    Gosh, has it been a YEAR already? And what a wonderful picture! That smile is worth a fortune, and to think how close you were of to not getting to take that picture. SO very glad you shared his story (and the update too…imo, feel free to add updates any time). There are times when the human story trumps business, and that was surely one of them. If anything, I’d think your sharing of the Duece’s story added to your readership. Besides, variety is the spice of life. Congrats all around, and Happy Birthday Matthew! I’ll hoist a glass for you on Saturday from a few hundred miles north.

  15. Polly

    Happy 1st birthday to the Deuce!
    As for you “not doing your job”, I don’t completely agree. One of the reasons I come here is because its not all bikes all the time. Sure, I like to read objective reviews about new bike stuff, but I also like to read about how people with similar interests to me (editorial contributors & commenters alike) get along with balancing all their responsibilities at home, at work, et al, with cycling and trying to live a “cycling centric” lifestyle. Makes me feel like I’m not on a sinking ship alone.
    Keep up the “lousy” work.

  16. billbochnak

    Padraig, a very happy b-day to the Deuce, to Dean & Ron, and others I too struggle with what can happen if I dont come back while riding or running. I agree whole heartly with Padraig with my children being exposed to why we as parents are making the choices we do, the meathod behind the maddness. Pratically, i have a healthy life insurance policy, I just bought a tail light for my bike which will be on at all times, I will not ride with out my RoadID & reflective ION material on back & front. The rest is up to god or fate depending on your believe proclivity, another great piece cover elsewhere :-)
    End of the day, just trying to be the best person/parent i can be. Cheers & will ride on sat up here think of just this type of stuff :-)

  17. Emil

    I come to this site for the humanity and great writing with a shared interest in bicycles. I’ve always found what I’m looking for and more.
    Happy Day to The Deuce!

  18. Dan R

    Congratulations on your littlest boy’s birthday! You and your family are clearly doing a GREAT job, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Slowness to crawl/stand because of early weight gain and favoring one side are more common than you think. Attentive parenting and aggressive physical therapy can overcome these issues, and I speak from first-hand experience on both counts. Good luck tomorrow and enjoy your picnic!

  19. August Cole

    A child’s eyes say so much. This photo of the Deuce is beautiful as is the ongoing support of the RKP community for you, and for one another. Enjoy the celebratory outing together! Riding is the best way to remind us that there is more to life than bikes, if that makes sense to anyone else.

  20. Comptonius

    Such a handsome young man! Congrats on this milestone and many more to come. We will be celebrating my wife’s grandfather’s 104th trip around the sun on Saturday the 22nd, so the Duece is in good company. Enjoy this.

  21. Pat and Sandy O'Brien

    Happy Birthday Deuce!

    “When you realize you have enough, you are truly rich.”
    Tao te Ching
    Translation by Stephen Mitchell

  22. Robert P

    Came to RKP looking for writing on cycling but what I found was so much more. I found the soul of cycling put into words!

    Happy Birthday Matthew! And thank you Padraig!

  23. randomactsofcycling

    Happy Birthday to the Deuce. It’s Sunday here in Sydney, so probably Saturday in California. Hope you’re all having a great day.

  24. shawn

    congratulations on matthews first year! your story helped me through my own sons visit with the NICU and chest tubes. his first is in May. keep up the good work and ride safe.

  25. Jesus from Cancun

    What a nice picture! I am very happy to see The Deuce on his way to Life, a year after the whole RKP community prayed together for everything to go right. And it did!
    Congratulations, and enjoy the sleepless nights and everything that comes together with being the daddy of a little one. You will miss this time when he grows up.
    I agree with others who say this is what we all like about RKP. It’s not all about the bike.

  26. Bennweb

    Thank you for giving us a 1 year update! I held back tears every time I read a new instalment of the Enter The Deuce. Being a father an fiercly loving my own young children made me sad, upset, hopeful and scared for you and your wife as I read those updates from over here in Australia. Your commitment to “telling it like it is” was and is amazing. I hope things continue on the up and up and look forward to further updates down the track.

    I like to think that as cyclist we’re a decent mob and you, RKP and its readers prove it.

    I hope that Matthew’s party was a wonderful time of celebration and here’s to many more!

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