November 4, 2015. Coldspring, TX. We are finally leaving Austin. The town and people were good to us. This morning we finalized a plan with Easy Street Recumbents and a trike is being built for me. There is a critical part for the one handed operation of the brakes that needs to be shipped from England (where the trikes are manufactured). This part will get to Austin on Monday then the trike will be sent to wherever we are. There is a learning curve to riding a recumbent but I’ll have time. I hear it is still possible to overturn and crash a recumbent trike but at least I’ll be a lot closer to the ground. Douglas Adams once observed “the knack of flying lies in learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” I have mastered the first part but the second part I’m having difficulties with.
As I’ve said, I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember. Some of them have been lost over the course of various moves around the world, but at this point, I have an unbroken record going back to the mid-’80s. It started out just documenting our travels. But eventually journaling became part of my post 24-hour-call coffee ritual. I never went to sleep after being on call. It always seemed like such a waste of a day. Instead I would leave the hospital and go to the coffee shop, sit down with a cappuccino and my journal, put Leonard on the iPod and gather my thoughts. One day out of the blue, Lisa asked me if she could have my journals when I was dead. I thought about this request for a while because if they ever made a movie of my journals it would not be PG-13. I asked her why she wanted them. She said, “so I can know you better.” Then I thought, well, I’ll be dead anyway so I said, “sure” and didn’t give it much more thought.
I don’t do “still” very well. Even when I’m stationary I’m pacing. I can make people very nervous. The thought of waiting a week for my new trike seems like an eternity to me. I have never been this sedentary for this long a period of time. Ever. However, that I will be able to finish the ride at all is a blessing. Well, let me rephrase that. That I will be able to ride at all is a blessing. The finishing part I shall believe when and if it happens. Rae is excited about accessorizing the trike. Since the trike rides low, I need a flag to make myself visible. My “Rays Little Ride” jersey was cut off me in the ambulance. Quickly and skillfully by a paramedic before I could protest. But we still have its tatters. This will now become our freak flag and you better believe we’re gonna let it fly.
In 2013 while in Amsterdam, I visited the Anne Frank house. The home of probably one of the most celebrated journals of all time. At the end of the tour, there were video screens showing interviews with the surviving members of the Frank family. I sat and watched one of her father, Otto Frank. He said that he and his daughter had lived in very close quarters for many years and he thought he knew her well. But when he was given the journals to read after the war, he was shocked at the depth and insight that his daughter had into life. This led him to conclude that no parent truly knows their children. This got me thinking about the reasoning behind Lisa’s request for my diaries. Not really knowing those you are closest to is something that goes both ways. So for Hanukkah that year I gave Lisa one of my journals. I thought I’d start at the beginning and gave her the one recounting her birth. I said that when you’re done with that one, return it and I’ll give you another and we can treat it like a library. I told her that she shouldn’t have to wait till I’m dead to know me. But of course, this wasn’t the one she wanted. She wanted the ones written during her teen years. Those were some tumultuous times. I hoped I hadn’t written anything too incriminating but handed over the relevant tomes as per her request.
There are many faces we wear. Amongst them there’s the person we are at work. There’s the person we are with our family. And there’s the person we are when we are completely alone. If anyone knows who I am alone better than even me it’s Rae. Sometimes I wonder why I bother talking because even if I say what I think I should say, Rae will ignore what I said and do what she knows I really want to but didn’t say. As annoying as that can be at times, isn’t that the point of it all? To find that someone who knows you better than you yourself. There are billions of people on this planet laboring in seeming anonymity. Yet if you find that one person to notice you. To witness your life. To validate your existence. Isn’t that the point of it all? When two become so much greater than the sum of the parts. I don’t wish to diminish the value of someone who has not found their “one” but for me this is the meaning of life. I could not have gotten this new trike without Rae. I can talk to people who are used to my voice on the phone, if I use a headset, and they can understand most of what I say. When I speak on the phone with someone that I don’t know, there is generally a pause . . . then they politely bemoan the quality of the connection “I think the signal is breaking up.” Sadly, yes the signal is breaking up but it’s the signal coming from the motor cortex of my brain, not the cellular network. Rae has called recumbent dealers in England multiple times, recumbent dealers in Texas, California and Wisconsin because she knows it’s the only thing that I want to do. If I were Rae I would be freaking the fuck out at the prospect of me getting back on a bike. But, even before I dared voice it myself Rae was thinking about it. When I get back on a bike again it will be as much because of her love as it will be because of my pigheadedness.
One day I received a text from Lisa. She had been reading my journal and wanted more information about something. She had taken a picture of the page in question in my journal and sent it to me. It was about the night of her junior prom in 2006. I had taken her to the event but she didn’t want me to drop her off too close in case anyone saw that her dad was bringing her. As I drove away she was holding up her dress and walking awkwardly across the parking lot in high heels to meet her date. I must have gone somewhere to have coffee and write in my journal because I wrote, “I bet when I come to pick her up, she’ll be sitting outside alone.” But this was many years ago, and I hadn’t given it anymore thought until Lisa texted that day.
“How did you know I would be alone outside?”
“Because that’s where I would have been,” I responded.
“I love you, Dad.”
Peace, love and midwives