Having reminded myself how to change a flat on my bicycle, I’m now giving the beast an overhaul. I sort of, mostly, know how to do this. Parts of things are soaking in degreaser in the bathtub. It’s been that long.
Around this time in 2010 was the last time I rode, and I rode a lot. It’s good for the heart. It’s good for heart mending to get on a bike and ride. Around, and around the island of Manhattan and the six mile loop in Central Park is good, because the route has no set limit on distance. That is to say, if it takes infinity times around to do the job, that route is there for you. In 2006 I rode to and around Ireland, and then Paris, trying to set right a heart condition.
By heart condition, I don’t mean any physiological defect. In case that wasn’t obvious.
I also can’t run or swim at the moment because of a foot injury, and bicycling is an activity approved by the guy who says he can fix things.
He didn’t actually say that. I just want it to be true.
Doctors can’t fix all the things that doctors want to be able to fix. Or that we want them to be able to fix.
Bookends. I still can’t write about my sister’s diagnosis. The stories on that side, and the imaginary books that hold them are falling down. At best, a stack of them piled horizontally to hold up the rest. I still can’t write about the days when I learned there was not going to be a treatment that would work against her leukemia. I still can’t write about the screaming I did. Actual, literal, screaming, at people who loved me, and us, and had cared for us all those months. Including my mother. I still can’t write about the rabbit I bought for my sister less than twenty-four hours before she died, and brought to her at the hospital. She wanted a fuzzy pet. No one else had taken care of this request. She held it for a few minutes, and perhaps she had enough sensation left to know it was fuzzy. I believe she had enough hearing and cognition left to know I had brought her something fuzzy. She didn’t have speech any more on that day. Just one more time, she would speak to me clearly.
The hospital staff said not a word about the rabbit in a cage in the corner of the hospital room for the next twenty-four hours. Not a word. Later we named the rabbit Peaches. When we left, when we checked out, as it were, when we (all but the patient) were discharged, Peaches and her cage were packed with all the rest of what are called “personal belongings” when a person is in the hospital. Sometimes, when we’re not fucking around, “personal belongings” include a small lop-eared rabbit named Peaches.
These are the falling down books, not held up well yet in this narrative by the rituals we use to mark time and events, losses and joys. I do believe in these rituals. I believe in them to the extent that I believe in the things they represent. I do believe in death. I do believe in those rituals that mark a passing.
Our rituals gave me peace. To the degree possible, I was blessed with a very clean grieving. To the extent that is possible.
Today, I am, in ritual fashion, reorganizing a bicycle. In between the paragraphs of this page, two tires are reassembled with new tubes. Chain and gears are degreased. Everything needs to be put back together and regreased. And we’ll see how I did.
Moving through space is a ritual, a meditation, for me. Running, biking, swimming. Rarely, driving, but there are times. Now I wear a helmet, and carry repair gear, a cell phone, and emergency rations. Not like when we were kids, when we built ramps, crashed over or into them (with no helmets –who would have thought of such a thing), sometimes landed on our heads, and got up and did it again.
Here is a bookend, that came sometime after the rituals of mourning, and before I began riding in the Santa Monica mountains, and everywhere else possible. Through the nine months that Linda was sick, our family was adopted by another family, who had lost their daughter to the same disease. My mother had been her nurse. They came to visit one night early on and never left. One of their sons was my future ex-husband, and sometimes still friend. Around this time, twenty-four years ago, we conceived a child, our son. And soon after that, our daughter.