I know that everyone has them. A year has passed since. Or two years have passed since. I know that these anniversaries go on. But I also know they grow less difficult over time. I know this because until tonight, it hadn’t hit me that i’m on the third anniversary of my terrible experience of getting hit by a car on a bike. Someone asked me this week how long it had been, and I struggled to think of when it was. Maybe the gift of getting old and already having started out absent minded is that memories actually do fade. But this week, someone asked about the accident, quite offhandedly. And this week, a kid mentioned poison ivy and I remembered how itchy it was, that time i had it all over the right side of my body, where I landed, in the vines next to the stop sign. And tonight, I went to pick up my 24 Hours of Booty welcome packet. I’d ridden straight from bike camp, or the Salvation Army, having bought a few t-shirts to print this evening. I went back uptown (where we’d come from earlier in the day), and I experienced a few aggressive drivers in rush hour traffic, one literally speeding up to a red light, another on a cell phone. Another irritated to see a cyclist on the road. I managed to get into the wrong lane on the Mint/Morehead intersection going out of town and had to slide over into the through lane, and I got to my destination, which was packet pickup for 24 HOB.
Then I came home and let Luke out and it hit me. Three years ago this week, on my way to packet pick-up from working camp at USNWC, I didn’t make it to my destination. I remember Pel Deal calling to ask where I was and telling him I was in the hospital. I remember the nurses cutting clothes off of me. I remember my 17 year old daughter showing up at the emergency room, grounding me to the planet when I was so scared and alone. Meg came. They both watched the Dr.s sew my leg back together because after one look, I couldn’t stand seeing it anymore.
I thought of that terrible anniversary tonight and I cried. I was remembering the people that showed up at Booty and took my bib and rode the century I’d promised. I always ride a century because someone always donates 100 dollars in my name. Harry and Heather both rode miles for me the year I couldn’t ride. I know it was silly, but I needed those miles ridden. I went to take a picture with my team, and I know that was probably a bad decision on my part, but I needed to still be here. After seeing a car come at you fast and knowing you can’t get out of the way fast enough and wondering if you’ll die, being present seems like a big deal.
24 Hours of Booty is not about me. It’s about something a lot bigger than me. Every year I complain about and dread the asking for donations and worry that I won’t make my minimum. But every year it comes round and I’ve signed up, and I ride it because I can still ride. I’m still here. And riding it, and raising the money reminds me that this is how cancer survivors feel as well. They’re still here. They made it through.
The pictures above were taken on the day I rolled out and didn’t make it to my destination, didn’t make it home. In the first one you can see a gift from one of my students, a tiny bicycle on a thin red ribbon. I always considered that bicycle a good luck charm, though I’m usually not superstitious. Like in video games where you have extra lives to use. That day, that charm was lost in the accident, but I wasn’t. That day was the last time I wore my red helmet. I live with that on the road every day. Every time I see drivers on phones or speeding or putting something else above the good of the community of road users, a little bit I think about that day.
I take that extra time, and I am extra vigilant, because I want to make it home. Watch for cyclists this weekend. There will be a lot of us out there. Happy 24 HOB.