Decline is a gradual thing. A vine that starts small and then inexplicably takes over the side of the house. In my head, I still think I am a happening guy. I'm a drummer, a skateboarder, surfer, etc. I put on my denim leisure suit and strut through my day to a disco soundtrack. The sound of laughter fades in from the rear, until it envelopes the entire sound stage. I get a glimpse of myself (sans denial goggles) and realize I am a walking cliche of what once was, or may have never been, cool. I am invisible to the opposite sex, and the target of mockery.
Well that the was the scene I watched, and the dialogue I heard, as I played back the dailies from yesterdays drama. Lets start at the beginning...
Paul is receiving unsolicited (is there any other kind?) advice from me about cornering and braking. He made a little bobble and his nerves were messing with his technique. I'm nervous that I'm going to get dropped on what Big Worm had sold as a chill recon of the race loop. After a few more helpful tips, Paul grabs some brakes and lets me go by. Moto Jason is showing me the front half of his bike on every corner. There is an unspoken tension that I imagine horses feel right before a stampede. At the top of Cadillac, before the first downhill, I am right where I want to be, behind Big Jim and Worm. This is the only section in town that I consider myself an "A" rider. In between the two sections I ride well are some technical climbs and some washed out, tight corners that make my gas light come on. I hang on almost to the last gazebo before I have to give in and let Steve A and Moto Jason, go by. It takes a while for Paul to catch me, but he does and I get out of his way too. The rest of the ride is a series of regroups where the boys dutifully sit up and wait for me. Out of pride and obligation, I squeeze out two laps, but any thoughts of racing are dashed.
We all expect to get old and to lose something in the process of aging. Somewhere in the back of our minds we know it is coming. It doesn't prepare you for the actual event or knowing things will never be the same. People frequently tell me I am lucky: doctors, relatives, co-workers, and my long suffering wife. A thirty eight year old lawyer, with the same condition as me, died a week before I had my incident. There were also a lot of people who didn't have strokes, and I would rather be on that team. I never wrote on my life list that I wanted to be the luckiest stroke/PFO survivor. Forgive my ingratitude, I am working on it.
It has been exactly one year and ten days since my stroke. I wrote a few half hearted attempts at putting a brave face forward and left them in and around the virtual waste bin. Facebook had a one of my posts from one year ago, in the margin of my page today, and it read:
"It is all I can do not to suit up and go ride today. I am trying to be patient. I am ready for the next step. I really just want to ride. Go get some dirt for me!"
There were endless replies of support. I was embarrassed at how quickly I forget. Even though I woke up with my face, right arm and legs numb this morning, I realize as I write this, I am lucky. I still have a lot to learn about my new parameters. I hate seeing my friends ride away, but watching from the woods is better than wondering what they are doing from the couch. Forgive my greed, my denial is strong. I hope to find some grace in all this, but like everything else, I am slower than most.