When I was a child, my mom read the Astrid Lindgren book “Of Course Polly Can Ride a Bike” to my sister and me. It was a story about a little girl who was not old enough to consider a bike sans training wheels and on her birthday she “borrowed” her neighbor’s, only to crash it at the bottom of a hill. My sister and I would often use the dramatic quote: “Blood on my birthday!”…as it seems appropriate in so many of life’s situations. 😉 When I was pregnant with Madeline, I bought her the book so that she too could reference this moment and share a wink with her Aunt Leslie and me.
Today, after weeks of trying to adjust to the reality of myself in a scooter for the longer jaunts that I am incapable of walking, I finally decided I would try to ride my bicycle. With compromised balance, dizziness, and muscle strength that won’t allow me to walk more than 10 blocks I had avoided it for over 5 years and had good reason to believe that it would not be on my plate of options this coming season. In fact, when Keith was cleaning out the garage I didn’t even recognize my bike. It wasn’t the old friend that I missed over the years… more so the stranger I didn’t want to admit I knew. It’s amazing how the mind copes with loss.
So, today (Sunday) Madeline asked if I would ride my bike with her and Daddy. I said apprehensively that I would try. She promised she would teach me how to do it again and so we took the Mongoose off its high hooks and reintroduced it to gravity. As Keith pumped air in the tires I asked Madeline if it was strange for her to have to teach her mom these things. (Madeline often exaggerates her cuts and bruises, feigning sprains and possible broken bones in a way that recognizes how she observes my limitations that don’t go away) And she said “No Mommy, its not strange, I’ve been with you a very long time and I’m used to it.” And while Madeline has taught me many things, I knew that this experiment would stand out. I told her not to be too disappointed if I couldn’t do it, it would be no reflection on her abilities to teach. Of course I was really preparing myself – knowing that if I couldn’t do it, it was no fault of my own. Though I knew the disappointment would be great- and I feared it.
So, the bikes were ready and Madeline described how I should hop up on the seat and start pedaling. This foot goes up and pushes, while this foot goes down. She was clearly enjoying her role. Starting and stopping would be my greatest challenge, if in fact I was able to achieve balance required to maintain the motion.
And I did. And it was magnificent.
Madeline felt proud that her coaching was so effective and I basked in my ability to move faster than I had in recent memory on my own action. With each stop and start I found new confidence and the uncertainty pushed to the ground by each successive pedal. We rode to Edgemont Park and circled the perimeter twice, and though I was ready for a third we opted to use the energy for the ride home.
It was a curious feeling to cover so much ground and only be reminded of my limitations when I stopped. Getting off the seat my dizziness returned. It was almost alarming because for those moments as I propelled through the park with my husband and daughter, MS was incognito. I was in a public space acting out a part seamlessly…with no one knowing the truth but us three. What bliss.
I’m looking forward to taking this experience to Kessler when I’m assessed for a scooter. My limitations can’t be understood in a first glance. I can’t be pigeon-holed as a person who can’t walk and needs a motor to go the distance. Although at times it may be true, I’m also the intrepid woman on her bicycle who blends in beautifully with her surroundings while enjoying the light breeze blowing past her face early on Sunday morning.
Thanks for reading~
How wonderful! I am in awe of your rediscovered ability, and (hard to admit) more than a bit jealous! Madeline deserves a full measure of praise for her encouragement and support.
Thanks Connie. I’m relishing it!
Great blog. My wife has MS, and this helped me alot. Please keep writing.
Thanks Tristan~ It’s very meaningful for me to know that this blog isn’t only helping me!
All the best to you and your wife.
Hello, I enjoyed reading about your recent cycling adventure. I have MS and love cycling even though my walking is terrible. My only advice is to watch out for bridges! The movement of the water can distract your balance. May you have many happy miles.
Thanks for the headsup Cath! I’ll keep that in mind. And thanks for the kind words~
Your adventure on the bicycle is even better on the blog; I see you, Keith and Madeleine, wheel spokes glinting in the light of the park. I’m not sure why but I was a bit of a jolt when you told me how far and how much you biked–that was really something. I’m glad I know you and can participate even a little in how you go about dealing with what’s on your considerable ‘plate’. pa
Wow! How wonderful for you to have found a “new” mode of mobility! I hope you are able to enjoy it more over the summer.
Uh oh. Our bikes have been keeping company on those hooks in the garage for a long time. Now you’ve gone and done it and my bike is probably wondering where I’ve been, jealous that your Mongoose went for a lovely ride in the park while it’s still hanging on the hook, spider webs dangling and a layer of dust covering the seat.
Is Madeline available for a lesson for Grandma next Saturday?
Gee, I had missed this post until today – oh so sweet!