She picked it up at a garage sale in the mid 1990s for $10, a steal.
I remember her bringing the green Volkscycle home and riding the bike around the hickory tree-hemmed court where we grew up on a small Michigan town. She was smiling and triumphant coasting on her new hobby, the bike.
But come to think of it–I have no memory of my mom on the bike after that.
The memory I do have makes me smile, as do all her varied health kicks. There was the cabbage soup diet (does anyone remember that?) She and my dad played a sporadic tennis match, which always ended in the same argument: He hit the ball too hard and put an impossible spin on it. When we were older, out of the house, she started doing weights at the local gym. Mostly, though, she and my dad supported us in our chosen sport activities, like soccer for my older sister and me. For my little sister, it was ballet, every Saturday morning with my mom, for more than a decade.
My mom’s stage 4 esophageal cancer diagnosis arrived in April 2009.
My husband and I moved from Chicago to my hometown – into my parents’ basement – that July. Three months after her diagnosis, we found out I was pregnant with our daughter.
My mom’s health kicks ramped up as she grew more and more desperate to stay alive. At one point she bought an expensive drink system that sat unused in a cabinet, kind of like the bike in the garage. We decided to become macrobiotic chefs, a goal that resulted in my purchase of a never-opened cookbook. She started riding a horse named Blackjack. That one? She kept it up; she loved that horse. There was tumeric. In a move based on a study out of Ireland (I think), she put the bright orange powder in yogurt religiously. It sometimes stained her chin. I pointed it out once and she started to cry. It was one of two times she ever broke down in front of me about her diagnosis.
Her hair fell out and I developed a whopping case of morning sickness (second trimester. WTF).
I tried to be helpful and pointed out a message board I found online for esophageal cancer patients. The only thing she saw was how fast people with stage 4 esophageal cancer disappeared from the message board. She cried. I cried.
After crying we walked the dog down the street to the park and screamed f*$%& cancer at the moon at the top of our lungs. The outburst alarmed her chihuahua Isabelle, who ran in circles.
It felt good.
She saw a faith healer. She let her friend pray over her, even though it made her uncomfortable. She sought the services of a Buddhist spiritual advisor. She refused medical marijuana and my effort to get her to see the local wacky weed doctor. MJ wasn’t gonna touch the pain she felt in those last weeks. We could barely get her out of bed for a final procedure to kill the nerve endings around her spinal chord.
My mom died a year and a half after her diagnosis, when Laila was six months old.
That bike? It sat unusued in my parents’ garage until I dragged it out after her death.
Mark and I had moved into an apartment in Ann Arbor, where I stowed the bike in our basement. At one point, I rode it to work for a column.
We moved to Oklahoma for my reporting job and better prospects for Mark, a teacher. I took the green bike, but I left it in our new garage.
I started running as soon as we arrived here, trying to shake off grief, the past few years, everything.
After completing a 12-mile training run for a half marathon, I found out I was pregnant again.
I ran the half marathon at six weeks along, but after that? Morning sickness kicked in and, when not at work, I played with Laila, watched Netflix with my husband, slept and sat on the couch eating ice cream like a queen for the duration of my pregnancy.
After I had Eli in December 2012, we found out he has cystic fibrosis. The diagnosis is fatal, even as the median of life has stretched from 1 or 2 seven decades ago to 42 today. The mortality check shocked us and prompted me to set a flurry of goals for myself on the double, some good, some bad.
Good: Go to ocean for a vacation.
Bad: Run a marathon.
The knee injury – chondromalacia patella – came after my 20 mile run. I never completed the race.
Recently I thought about the green bike again, the one that has been gathering dust in my Oklahoma City garage for almost four years.
I took the bike to a shop last month. My dad, feeling nostaligic for it, perhaps, sent a kid carrier to us from Amazon. I hitched it to the bike.
I packed Laila and Eli in it this weekend.
I left my cell phone in the car and we rode to two different parks around my favorite lakefront path. I chased them around and we played ‘monster.’ We had a picnic.
I’m going to keep pedaling.
One day, I hope they think of me on the green bike, and smile.
I’m in the midst of the Healthy 65. It’s a 65-day wellness challenge.
Participants are encouraged to pick a simple goal and keep it up from Nov. 30, 2015 through Groundhog Day, Feb. 2.
Share your healthy effort by using the hashtag #healthy65 on Twitter or Instagram.
Make sure to look for Healthy 65 posts on NewsOK.com, too, in a special spot on the sidebar at the right side of the page.
What will your goal be?
Mine is strength – physical and mental. Translation: weights and yoga.
I started the Healthy 65 to help her son Eli stay well. He has a chronic and life-threatening lung illness called cystic fibrosis. Children have a hard time pronouncing the disease and sometimes call it “65 roses.” This blog documents my family’s experiences raising a child with CF.