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.
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.
Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Setting aside the cornucopial bacchanal of the Turkey Day table and a day at home with our families to laugh, cry and remind ourselves why we don’t do this more often, the opportunity to express gratitude for the gifts we’ve been given, unwrapped and unconditionally, is just really nice.
There’s a chill in the air here in the Northern U.S. Warmers of the arm, knee, leg and toe variety have become de rigueur. Wood smoke wafts on the wind. We are grateful for neoprene and fleece linings, for street lighting and the warmth of home.
The economy has been bad on a global scale, but our wheels keep rolling. Our goods are durable. If anything, a down economy gives us more reasons to ride, to save on health club membership, to save on gas, to remind ourselves what’s important. Global bike sales have actually risen over the last two seasons, evidence that the bike can play a part in the new “green” economy. We are grateful for the solutions hanging in our garages and for the ability to ride places where others will only drive.
Ours is, by any measure, a luxury hobby. RKP readers are generally affluent enough to express opinions about the high-end component offerings from SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo. While not all of us would call ourselves rich, we move in a world of choices that most of the world doesn’t have. We’re grateful to be able to argue over component groups as if there were a correct answer, and to debate the merits of the various frame materials as if we were building the next space shuttle. We’re grateful for the ability to take the bike too seriously and for the good sense to laugh at ourselves when we do so.
Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and it occurs to us that the bike is most often a way to get away from family, even if, in the end, it helps us to be better fathers/mothers/daughters/son/brothers/sisters/people. We are grateful for this time off the bike to reap the dividends it provides and to share it with those we love.
Finally, we are grateful for this big, stupid, amorphous, unwieldy internet that brings us all together and grows our cycling family across the continents and time zones into its own great big, stupid, amorphous, unwieldy but wonderful mess.
What are you grateful for?
So there’s this yearly battle between my mother and my wife at Thanksgiving time over the sweet potatoes. My wife makes them. She follows a fairly typical recipe that involves lots of butter and brown sugar. The end product is cloyingly sweet and serves, I think, as an excellent counter point to mashed potatoes with gravy. My mother prefers a more esoteric preparation, hewing to her more savory conception of the Thanksgiving Day feast.
I love Thanksgiving, because it’s a food holiday. If you put food in front of me most any day of the year, I will probably eat it, but on Thanksgiving, like most Americans, I take that approach to an extreme. I will eat those sweet potatoes no matter how they’re prepared. I’ll even eat the ones with the marshmallows on top that gourmands turn their noses up at.
I have been known to eat half a pie on the day in question. And that’s only because people are watching. Otherwise, I’d eat more.
This week’s Group Ride is about food. Do you keep it together all season and then go off the rails, a la Jan Ullrich, once the weather turns cold and the wood smoke wafts in the breeze? Most of us go off the rails at some point, whether it’s through caloric debt (I make horrible food choices when I’m famished), or out of sheer boredom with the ascetic lifestyle we cleave to otherwise. Is there a food that, even when you go off the rails, you won’t eat?