6 weeks before Puglia…
The moment of impact was a powerful, hard-hitting shock. I have a vague memory of flying through the air wondering what I hit and how I would land. The next memory was of lying on the hot pavement, numb.
I’ve always been missing a fear gene. Fear, like worry, seems like a waste of time and energy. The result is going through life fast with the philosophy that if I fall, I’ll simply get up. I always try new things and do things without fear of consequence. I love new adventure, and I don’t love people who overthink. Reckless? No, not really. Just fast. He’s the exact same way, but time and experience has made him a bit more thoughtful. (A bit, not much).
One of the things we love most is being outside, especially on a bicycle. The miles and scenery you cover, the fresh air, pushing hard to get up a hill only to enjoy the high speed and freedom of coming down. It’s a combination of therapy and exhilaration.
It was an accident. It’s not cancer or a terminal illness. Neither of us are suffering from a debilitating disease. From the deck of horror cards life can deal you, this was mostly meaningless.
Except it wasn’t for us.
We were bicycling around our lake on a beautiful summer morning. About a mile from home, a truck with a pontoon trailer decided to blindly back onto the main road without a sightline or spotter, backing directly into me cycling down the road at 25 mph. He was bicycling right behind me and hit the trailer head on. We both flew through the air, and somehow landed relatively close together.
For me, the pain was immediate (after the shock wore off). I’m not sure if I landed on my head, but the helmet was cracked in half, so that’s a good guess. The rest of the pain came in in the ambulance and in the ER in the form of severely broken ribs, broken collarbone, collapsed lung, concussion and bloody and raw legs. I spent nearly a week digging the bike’s carbon fiber out of my thigh. My bike literally broke in half.
For him, the pain came later. He went on autopilot out of concern for me. Although the blood that came from the disturbingly deep gash from the impact on his knee was monumental.
The few months that followed went through a cycle for us both. I started with the resignation that comes with pain and inability. I couldn’t lift or move my arm. I couldn’t sneeze, cough or sleep. My neck was completely immobile, and I was dizzy every time I looked up or got up. The painkiller of choice was vitamin I (ibuprofen) and wine. The doctors loaded me up with all the prescriptions, and they simply left me feeling thick and more resigned.
My anger came later. He started angry, then when his body reminded him of the impact of the accident, his pain and resignation followed. His injuries decided to toy with him, and his knee and shoulder were a painful daily reminder. They still are.
We were lucky. No broken back, which was the original fear, and no major unfixable injury. If the trailer had a pontoon on it, we wouldn’t be alive.
So, we choose this accident to do a hard re-start. We always enjoyed life, but we now vowed not to ever take feeling good for granted again. After months of dread and tears over simple tasks like taking a shower and washing your hair, I would never, ever, ever take health and strength for granted again. We vowed to take every minute and get on the bicycle or on that plane to go somewhere great. Because we could.
The accident isn’t a powerful story of fighting back from near death, but it did remind us of our everyday champagne philosophy and how important it is. Live, breathe the air, enjoy and absorb. Use legs and bicycles instead of cars and buses. Look around, look up, see people and see details. Appreciate. Don’t take the short cut and don’t be afraid to get a little lost.
And drink sparkling wine whenever you feel like it, not just on special occasions.
For me, I’ll add one more. Enjoy the little everyday things….like taking a shower and washing your hair with two hands.