Saturday, December 20, 2008

Between rain and duty

As cyclists, frank discussions of our creatures, self-reflection on diets, digestion, sores and pains, brings us to humor the reality of our composition and the failures of the body. Driving legs with fury, beating them with lashing commands when they would rather die, we come to see ourselves as a dual being, the voice and the motion, mind and hand. Though what I share in these lines is not a reflection of lessons learned on the bike, they are lessons from the road. I share with you these words because having entered into this agreement, this blog, I decided to relay my experiences. Sometimes we share stories of our saddle sores.

Just a few weeks ago my father was nearly bedridden after having lost nearly 20 lbs and a horrifying change of meds. His physical therapy is focused on improving his balance and flexibility, and voice lessons are getting him beyond a hoarse whisper. In a sense he is in the base training period, relearning the basics so that he can go on to more exciting journeys. My father and I had this evening discussed the deepest question of all - why is there anything? We have yet to tackle the questions of what is life and what we should do if his heart should cease to beat.

We ask children not what they want to do when they grow up but rather what they want to be. Perhaps we want to be old and happy, with a swarm of grandchildren milling about our feet, or be he who conquers a terrible descent and an epic climb with a grin. There are many things I would rather be doing than grinding through agonizing minutes in the cold cab of my father's truck as he looks for the strength to pull the seat belt across his lap, or overhearing his repeated and exasperated cursing "fucking son of bitch" to his zipper because it won't respond the way it used to. I wish I didn't have to sit with him, he in his wheelchair, and tell him that his clutter and way of life is a burden to everyone around him, that it is unrealistic for him to use a Dremel tool or soldering iron, that what he was is not what he is. Yet, in these moments I detest there is space for peace. These are times to find our compassion for a fellow traveler, to reform ourselves and the boundaries we thought were fixed, and to share in sincerity ourselves. Prior to this visit I was inclined to let be and help only when asked, probably because I myself don't want help unless I absolutley need it. There comes a time though, when even if someone doesn't ask for help you know it is the right thing to do. The cold nights will at times paralyze his walking in violent tremors, and I can now reach out and take him by the arm and give him guidance.

The Zen of these moments is not in stopping the rattling. We control what we can, which in the end may not even be our own hand, but perhaps only our dream of what we want to be.

Between rain and duty, there has not been time to ride.

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