“I was peddling in the springtime of my life, a springtime amidst the crowd of winter-coated seniors.”
It was a sunny Sunday. I biked the boards with a sunny disposition to match. Well as best as I could muster, despite the coronanews of the day.
The coronavirus fire is a world conflagration. I liken it to the forest fires of the American West and the Australian fires. Devastation followed by renewal.
Some of us think but don’t speak of America, even the world, as being a healthier place after the old, the weak, those with preexisting conditions, compromised immune systems, are sloughed off through the raging coronavirus fires.
They might think it’s nature’s way of clearing out the old and the weak, just as fires remove overcrowded old-growth and dry brush, leaving forest grounds ready for vibrant life to flourish.
My sister, Lorraine died last year from the complications, (infection) of a heart attack. I recently saw the bill for the last two months of her life, Jan and Feb, the bill came to $533,000. Just for Jan and Feb! And she had been hospitalized since Nov 29th. The total cost had to be near a million bucks. Medicare and private insurance covered most of it as it did for countless others, but the demands on our health system are acute.
Oldsters as myself do put a strain on our society.
That may be, but as too many of the old leave at once in this viral inferno, they take much-accumulated wisdom with them. To say nothing of the years of love to share with the generations they bore. If you calculated all the total years the deaths of these oldtimers lose through Covid 19 it would be in the many thousands. That’s many millions of contacts with those they gave birth to, lost. All those missing holiday hugs, the laughter, the stories, yes the endless stories.
I don’t consider myself old even though I’ll be reaching the big 80 this summer. I swim, I bike, I trek the beach, I dabble with free weights, I do what I can. But I still felt a bit threatened. So with that in mind, I noticed those on the boardwalk with me on this sunny Sunday: so many tots, so may teens, so many springier bods than this many-wintered package of skin and bone. I noticed most kept a social distance but not all. I meandered around other bikers, keeping clear of all.
Skateboards are not allowed on our boardwalk but I heard one behind me.
In my side-view mirror, I saw a black hoodied teen propelling his skateboard with an intimidating roar from his wheels. There was a whir of wheel-on-wood that threatened to overtake me.
I didn’t want him to catch up. I was peddling into the wind so it was already a fairly tough ride but as I increased my peddle power my muscles strained.
But as the volume of the roar increased it registered an automatic equation: increasing decibels=distance diminishing, the doppler effect. I pushed harder and the sonic threat decreased, only to rise again.
I pumped my legs as the teen used only one leg to push his board about the same speed. I ticked the gears up a notch to squeeze more energy from this milage-wracked engine of muscle and bone. I didn’t want him to catch me. Maybe I saw metaphor…maybe it was just ego.
At last, I was far ahead, the teen diminishing in both size and threat in my mirror. I felt mildly heroic. That’s the best I can muster these days. But it will do.
By the time I got to the west end of the boardwalk, I was well winded. So I sat and sunned and made a call or two. Way out to sea I saw a splash, a big one. A whale? I saw no silhouette of a whale, but nothing but a whale could have caused such a masterful splash of white on blue. Then I saw another and another, all splash, no whale. Never saw a whale off Long Beach in March but these times, my friends, yes, they are a changin’. Best ye stay far offshore, me brother mammal, where these days…the sea be safer.
After my rest, I started back. The air was high-forties fresh with the promise of spring and I wasn’t going to let the news of the day ruin it. I was still vital. I was still young in mind and in very semi-serviceable condition.
But then far up ahead, I saw myself. I was in white Tee shirt and shorts, sixty-four years ago:
I was peddling in the springtime of my life, a springtime amidst the crowd of winter-coated seniors. I Peddled hard to catch up with my teen self.
I needed to capture that moment for you dear reader. But it was not easy, even foolish to attempt to take photos with an iPhone while biking. Guess I still had some of that teen rebel left in me. This photo was the result of one of those attempts. See foolish blogger shadow:
But I did catch myself. The Tee shirt and shorts on a cold day, a badge of nonchalance. Not only was I peddling no-hands, but I had those hands…in my pockets! So sure was I, so confident.
No need to look back at future Lee, peddling the aches and creaks away. I was invincible, I breathed salt air into young, healthy, pink lungs, while 80-Lee gasped through subway sooted airbags.
I had no idea that in my youthful wake some sixty-four years behind was a fading image of Lee. All that teen could see was a future yet unknown, a future of pain and joy: the Marines, a Transit cop career, love, children, love lost, and…once again…love.
Keep peddling teen, keep looking ahead. Because someday, beyond that horizon, you’ll be biking in the wake of your hands-in-pocket self. And when you do, you’ll know, with all the bumps, all the skids, and all the falls, it was a ride worth taking.
So, right now, enjoy every blessed minute, embrace love, hug life, be true to yourself. But, most of all, protect those you love, and…protect America.
No, we oldsters are not trees, we still have a thing or two to offer, like these humble words above to someone who will listen.
Now, did I ever tell you the story of…