Tag Archives: bicycles

Orange County Musings Or, The Road My Son Travels

4 Nov

About a week ago I drove to Orange County–a place I didn’t know anything about (and still don’t): a part of California that isn’t LA or “The Valley”(I still haven’t figured out what “The Valley” is.)  Or San Francisco. My parochialism runs deep. BUT, I could tell you where in Redondo Beach to get the best dried kelp, where in Long Beach to find Chinese Herbs for depression, and where in Westwood to get a great Dead Sea facial mask. (Strangely indistinguishable, these various sundries.)

So, there I was, heading to the outback of Orange County for the “Tour de Cure,” a 25-mile bike ride to benefit diabetes research. My son Noah has Type 1; He was diagnosed at 10.

Noah at 10 with Howie's MaxThat’s Noah with cousin Max, a few months  before diagnosis.

I took my son to the doctor because Noah had some hives on his shin and abdomen.  When the doctor asked if Noah  had been eating or drinking anything unusual, we both said that he’d been drinking lots and lots of water, juice, soda, and peeing a lot.  The doctor’s expression changed, and then he took a little blood from Noah. When we asked why, Doctor Lambert–who’d known Noah since he was 6 months old–said,

“Just a check. He might have diabetes. Thirst and heavy urination are typical signs.”

Dr. Lambert left the room and Noah and I looked at each other; I wanted nothing more in the world than to run out of the office with my boy and go far far away. Because what the doctor had said seemed true. And how could I not have known?! Of course those were signs of diabetes.

It’s not quite true that all I wanted to do was run away; sobbing and  curling up in the corner was super-appealing. But that is not what moms do; moms are fearless and nurturing and always have a solution. At least they provide cookies. No cookies this time.

So, last month I headed to Orange County to bike  the “tour de cure.” Friends and acquaintances had given very, very generously toward my ride (THANK YOU!)  At  22, my son has  had diabetes  for  12 years. I believe there will be a cure in his lifetime.

I arrived in this little Orange County desert town–built ten years ago at the most?–and checked into my hotel. When I opened my suitcase, I found a test strip–which Noah uses about twelve times a day to determine his blood sugar level. Whenever he borrows my suitcase or car, the test strips turn up, signs  of Noah’s life, diabetes bread crumbs. Finding these little markers of his condition, I am unable to throw them away.

Tour de Cure test strip

In my hotel, I watched stupid TV until it rocked me to sleep. In the morning, for good luck I put on the Hamsa  earrings that a few years ago Noah brought me from Israel.

Tour de Cure earring

Then I drove to the Tour de Cure starting point. The sky was beautiful.

Tour de Cure Morning sky

The first five miles went by like a breeze, and then there was, almost too early, a rest stop: water, energy bar consumed, and I was on my way.  In the line of cyclists I was pretty far back, and that was fine. But I was disappointed that almost everyone was in groups or couples. The only people I saw who were also cycling solo were those rail-thin bike guys in their 50’s who do this sort of thing every weekend with a facial expression that suggests: Tour de France!

About mid-way through the ride, one of them said to me, “Only fifteen more miles!” I laughed; we were at mile 16 at least. I was feeling pretty lonely, and the biking was harder than I’d expected: a lot of hills.

On the day that Dr. Lambert tested Noah’s blood sugar for diabetes, my son went straight to the clinic restroom after the doctor told us his guess about Noah’s symptoms. He had just started Hebrew lessons for his Bar Mitzvah–several  years down the road–and his newly learned prayers breathed through the door that I was leaning on.  Noah’s  voice was thin but determined, speaking Hebrew, a foreign tongue to me–the non-Jewish parent.

The blood test was positive. I felt that this was impossible and yet it wasn’t. We got into the cold car, and Noah asked, “Will I still be able to have a baby someday?”

“Of course you will. As many babies as you want,” I replied, having no idea if diabetes affected fertility. Then we both cried, pulling out of the parking lot with the car wheels crunching over dry, heavily salted snow.

During the diabetes bike ride, I got lost. As a lone rider,  I had to navigate the way myself and  I guess I wasn’t  very good at reading the map or the signs.   Twice, I  waited for quite a while for other cyclists to come by so I could ask, “which way?” And then I found out that that Tour de France guy wasn’t joking. When I thought we had about three or four  miles left, I found out we had ten more to go.

Tour de Cure dry mountain scene

Noah must sometimes feel lost,  as if  “the signs”–carbohydrate counting, insulin to exercise ratio figuring–are of no use. And of course, the road of diabetes is lonely. No matter how expert the endocrinologist,  how supportive the family and friends, the diabetic is mostly alone with the disease: trying to figure out why, although he/she counted the carbs exactly and took precisely the right amount of insulin, she/he is still nauseous and angry and with a pounding head: hyperglycemia. Or he/she feels dizzy, faint, and is unable to form words: hypoglycemia. This can happen a couple of times a week.

A few years after he was diagnosed, Noah  went on a hundred-mile bike ride to raise money for AIDS. At thirteen, he was one the  youngest riders. I was terrified, and followed him in my car for part of the ride. He didn’t love that. Here’s Noah in the last two miles:

Noah on Aids Ride

I thought a lot about Noah during my unexpectedly long last lap of  the Ture de Cure, and I texted him “OMG, 6 more miles!” He texted back “Go MOM!” I kept pedaling. Along the way there was some lovely scenery:

Tour de Cure nurseryA nursery with huge patches of flowers. And these crazy cacti!  (Thank God for that fence):

Tour de Cure Crazy cacti

And then,  when I was pedaling hard on the outside and crying on the inside, this:

Tour de Cure Still NightDo not go gently into that (I know,  in Dylan Thomas’ poem, it’s that  “good night,” but I thought  of  the line anyway. Who names a street “Still Night”? Where was I?)

Just as I became delirious with despair I was hurdling through the finish line!  (And then consuming vast amounts of bland chicken cutlets and lemonade.)

The ride had been harder than I’d expected. I texted Noah, “Done!” He texted back, “Proud of you!” “Backatcha,” I wrote.

Noah’s road is harder than I wish,  and he travels it alone. Every day.

Noah Head shot November 2014Congratulations Noah, on the road you ride with  vigilance, perseverance, even humor.  I’ve learned a lot from you about loving  life–about demanding everything  that it has to offer, and about offering to life all that you have to give. So much.

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Easter Blues, Easter Dues

21 Apr

Me, Sad Bunny Close Up
Can’t explain it, just not feelin’ it (Easter). Or feeling it, but in all the wrong places…remembering dying eggs with my mom. Will never do that again–haven’t for 15 years. Hiding baskets with little plastic toys from CVS for Noah. That one year–he was four–when he confessed to looking out the window to see where I was hiding things in the yard. That’ll never happen again. Easter Past Writ Large. Which is stupid because all around me there are so many beautiful signs of life blooming.

palm fruit outside my apartment

Holidays do this to me…they highlight the past, the lost, ghosts.

skeleton on egg

So which came first–chicken or egg? Depression because I’m thinking about the past? Or already kind of depressed, and that chicken leads to the egg of the past? Wait. Should depression be represented by a chicken? The past by an egg? No! Egg=renewal. Chicken=”spring chicken,” something to grill, something that is a bird but doesn’t really fly. Now *that* works; depression is definitely the opposite of flying.

Well, here’s how my Easter went: I pulled myself out of the Slough of Spring Despond and went to pick up Noah. He was wearing a bunny shirt.

Noah in Playboy shirt

That tweaked my Easter Angst. Then he assembled the chair that Elizabeth so generously bought me some weeks ago, that I hadn’t been able to put together. (Ok, I didn’t even try.)
Me, New Chair

Then he filled my Scottster (bike) tires with air.

Noah fixes tire

Then we walked around Beverly Hills and looked at people in their “Sunday Best.” Everyone seemed ready for Ascension. Or Fire and Brimstone? Something. Noah practiced his new monologue. I felt the cobwebs in my brain become less gluey, the anvil in my heart lighten.
violin lady

Drove Noah back to his apartment and then went to Natasha’s. Her good cheer is infectious, and it’s not even annoying. Which can be annoying.
NIc on Easter
We made some LA eggs–pretty, happy, almost wearable, distinctly inedible.
EASTER EGGS

Then it was ok to come back to my little place; Easter was over. Gabby, the lovely 85-year old woman who lives down the hall, called out, “Happy Easter, Kirsten!” I waved to her. She wears lipstick every day.

I should have gone to church this weekend. Or, last week I could have held a Passover Seder. (Noah knows the prayers!) Neither ceremony was a tradition with which I was raised (vehemently secular family). But ritual frames the time of year, the history, the astronomical/spiritual moment with meaning. Just choose, Kirsten, one of the above! (Double entendre intended.)

Next year: an egg hunt? A face lift? A trip to Jerusalem?
At least some prayer. Oh. I can do that right now. Thank heavens.

Dove in tree

So here’s to honoring the egg of the now, and the next, Dear Reader!
Easter Egg of Life

Back On The Road: Wilshire Boulevard, Scott Sportster, Biking Past And Present

12 Apr

ciclavia me with bike I got a bike! (Never mind that Peggy and Carol and I were actually looking to rent a car. But low and behold, behind Enterprise Rentals there was  a hole in the wall  with used–possibly stolen?–bikes, and while Peggy and Carol got a car, I negotiated the hole-in-the-wall-bike-guy down sixty bucks!) My Scott Sportster is black and white, and I don’t have to squirm uncomfortably when I swing one of my hip replacements over the seat. It’s the first Girl Bike I’ve ever owned.

AND THEN I found out about CICLAVIE: April 6th, Wilshire Boulevard is closed to cars for several miles, and you can ride or walk from Beverly Hills to Downtown. Talk about an antidote to LA LA LAND AUTO CULTURE! And talk about my virgin ride. Well, let’s don’t talk about it. Let’s just enjoy the photos: The Gaylord–a classic line of text in the sky. ciclavie Gaylord Most people were riding together in groups–families, couples, friends. Lots of people had music blaring from small CD players. ciclavie girls in pink I was caught up in the fray and so happy to be on my new bike. I was also feeling alone. You have a date tonight, I reminded myself.  We made our way into KoreaTown. ciclavie Karoke And through some hybrid neighborhoods where the aromas in the air spell WEST COAST NORTH AMERICA. ciclavie Mexican chicken, Thai, Sushi That I was flying on my new (used) Scott Sportster as if we’d been together forever, charging into Downtown LA with thousands of other bike riders made my heart sing. I remembered riding my bike  in Champaign-Urbana in the 1970’s–to the swimming pool, to my job at Lincoln Square, to friends’ houses. Many of the streets were  made of thick, red bricks. Bumpy. There were also bike rides out to the farms, just blocks from my house. Cows, soybeans, the white square houses of farmers.  Decades later, riding my bike in LA, I am Midwestern Girl singing the song of the open road on Wilshire Boulevard. . .whodathunkit!?ciclavie riding through parkPedaling in the hot sun, I remembered my son Noah becoming a serious biker at 14, riding 40 miles a day on a regular basis. It scared me because of his Type 1 Diabetes. Of course he carried juice and a granola bar and a phone–but the phone didn’t work out there on those Finger Lakes roads. At first I watched the clock the whole time he was gone. He always came back. He entered races, and won first or second place.

He biked a hundred miles around Cayuga Lake in the local AIDS-Benefit ride. I drove around the lake, meeting him at pit stops. He was one of two of the youngest riders to finish. The next year he wanted to do it again, and  didn’t want me to follow him. I had one of those parent epiphanies: this is not your journey; it’s his. (I followed him anyway.)ciclavie Bradley This is Bradley. (His mom let me take the picture.) Bradley channels  Evil Knievel, Lance, and Superman. And he smiles a lot, though NOT for the camera. I also met Minerva (who smiles on and off camera.) cic la vie Asian girl At a certain point, I realized my front tire was a little flat, so I stopped to get it inflated. ciclavie bike repair   Wouldn’t you know, as the friendly pump guy filled the tire with air, the inner tube broke. He replaced it for free. I was on the open road again! I started to think about time. ciclavie stones in air Actually not as poetic as all that. Just remembering I was supposed to call my date at 5, and then we’d meet up at 6. I felt dread. I didn’t know why. ciclavie DEAD END I realized I would rather see a friend, talk to Noah on the phone, watch a movie alone, take a walk–than have this date. He is a kind, warm, attentive guy. What’s wrong with you? ciclavie tar pit On my way home, passing La Brea Tar Pits–the metaphors were piling up. I just don’t feel the urge to see him. IMG_1464 I decided to call him and suggest another night. Right, wrong, don’t know. How important is chemistry–at this age? I think I need it.

The whole trip–my virgin ride on the Scottster (my bike and I had become close so nicknames were in order)–was a mere ten miles. But it had carried me somewhere new, and memories of bike riding had emerged from the tar pits of my brain.

A decade ago, I followed Noah’s lead and bought a serious bike and rode it regularly. He and I did two triathlons together. He kicked ass.  I was just glad to finish.

ciclavie skateboard and push pole

Toward the end of CICLAVIE, I saw this guy, one of a group of young people on a skateboard, pushing themselves with poles. Talk about Hybrid Cultural Go!

Aim. Push Off. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Short and long strides, feel the road and fly. Make sure someone knows where you are. On this journey.