Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Will I finish the ride?

In my last post I barely mentioned the concept of "giving up" versus "letting go." A razor-thin fence to sit upon. There I was Tuesday night of RAGBRAI knowing full well that giving up on RAGBRAI and going home after the first three days would be so easy. Knowing that giving up would be the thing that Mom would advocate when I called her. Not because she's in favor of giving up on things, but because she didn't want to spend four more days worrying about the myriad dangers she could imagine taking me out of the ride by a decision other than my own. Knowing that she too travels her own unique journey through grief over the same loss. Knowing all this, I called Mom...

...Who gave me all the outs I needed. She gave me permission to give up; to come home and spend the rest of the week resting and relaxing rather than huffing and puffing my way up hills in the heat and humidity that had driven the rest of Iowa indoors. She gave me permission to let go; to stop trying so hard to make the ride all about Dad; to put aside the weight of my mission to gather names for the 454 ribbons adorning my jersey. She gave me permission to forget about everything else and just ride for myself. To have fun.

I know she would have preferred that I stop riding, again for her own peace of mind. At the same time, she knew the odds of me giving  up versus letting go.

I let go. The ride continued the next morning. And what I saw could be considered miraculous. But perhaps you would have had to be there to believe that this was so.

We left early because it was a longer day that promised continuation of some hills. By the edge of town I saw a man who appeared to be a paraplegic riding a recumbent hand-pedal bike. He sported a jersey advertising a Multiple Sclerosis Society bike ride. I asked if he had done that ride. He affirmed that he had a few years back. I thanked him for riding and let him know that Dad had had MS.

As we left the next "town" (a boarded up school building and a couple of houses at a crossroads where one of the portable bike shops that follows the RAGBRAI route had set up) Jim had an exchange with another rider whose companion informed him that it was her birthday. Everyone around began showering her with birthday wishes. I asked, "should we sing?" Jim started singing to her, I joined in and we received applause and appreciation. It's one of those unique joys I find in this particular ride. We're all friends. Except I don't think I ever saw her face and know for sure I wouldn't recognize a thing about her if I saw her again. And it doesn't matter!

Shortly thereafter we encountered a pair of riders from San Francisco area and chatted with them about the hills of the prior three days, the weather, etc. As we began to part ways, I saw the "license plate" of the bike passing us. It bore the name of the hospice volunteer who visited Dad weekly or better over the last year. I hollered a greeting at Kurt, also a former coworker of mine, who didn't recognize me. Not surprising with me  in my bike helmets and sunglasses and he riding ahead and trying to look back while not running into other cyclists. I told him who I was. We had a brief exchange and off he rode into the rest of the pack.

Later we ran into some former teammates and good friends who we hadn't expected to see at all. We had stopped for chocolate milk. We turned around and there they were. One of them informed us that we were about a mile from his mom's house and that she had all sorts of refreshments for us.

Despite it being a long day, we arrived back at our team's camp early enough to see about getting a massage from our team's massage therapy team. Oddly enough, one of them had a completely open schedule.

And when asked how my ride was that day, I was able to honestly respond, "Awesome!"

Series of miracles or one big miracle? I don't know. I think the miracle is that something happened to me to enable me to see all these things and appreciate them. All those people would have been there whether I interacted with them or not. Would that have been miraculous?


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