May 30, 2015

One Hill to Climb

It's been a topsy-turvy couple of months, with little time for cycling. A couple of bike commutes, that's all.

The more I thought about today's club ride, the more I admitted that I needed to scale it back. Way back. Not just due to lack of fitness, but to conserve a most precious resource: time. In a few days, with mixed emotions, I will be on a jet bound for Z├╝rich and a long-planned summer cycling trip. A trip that had been off-again, on-again so many times over the past two months.

Lexington Elementary School, Los Gatos, California
My ride partner and I started our route near the new elementary school in the hills. The site is virtually on the San Andreas fault, and when the town said it was too costly to renovate (or rebuild) to modern safety standards, the mountain residents raised a ruckus. And got the new school they deserved.

Just one hill, nothing more or less. Up through the redwoods, and back. Ten miles, 1,080 feet of climbing.

May 17, 2015

Remembering Mom

Mom and me at a London Pub, 1995
The inevitable day comes, when mother and child must part forever.

Two months ago, Mom was tottering about independently at home. Her memory was spotty and the family was wary, but she was determined to live her life on her terms (and frightened of the alternatives).

None of us had a clue that really, she was terribly ill.

One month ago, she was in sub-acute care and we were exploring those alternatives. Assisted living ... with memory care now, or in the future?

Two weeks ago, she was in the hospital and we were preparing to move her to a nursing home (her worst nightmare). She was upset that her fingernails were a mess—she loved her manicures. I did my best to trim and file them.

Four days ago, we placed her in hospice care. I did my best to hold her when she cried, and not to break down at the same time. Once, she managed to lift an arm, reaching to comfort me back. How not to break down, then?

This afternoon, I was standing over her when she suddenly opened her blue eyes wide. Could she know, then, that she wasn't alone?

Tonight, I was stroking her hair when she took her last breath.

I regret not having more photos of the two of us, sharing good times.

Mom at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1992
Of carefree days at the beach: Dad would meet us there, after work. He'd wear his bathing trunks under his suit and pick up a barbecued chicken for a picnic supper.

Of Scrabble games: Mom couldn't keep score last December and tired after two games, but she still played some darned good words. The words—not the numbers—were the challenge, for us. How many hundreds of boards did we fill, over all these years of my life? She never minded that I outscored her virtually every time.

Mom in Monterey, 1989
Of trips we took together: Florida. California. Thanksgiving weekend in Manhattan. England. There was such joy in her smile.

If you don't have an advance directive or a living will—or whatever it's called where you live—you should. (Mom did.) She didn't want to live with dementia, or to linger in a nursing home for years. Her last days were not without suffering, but that time was mercifully short.

Now, there are only memories.