The Long Ride
by Randy Ford
To reassure herself on a hot day Pat told Sid to pack an energy bar and extra water. As she watched her husband get ready for a bicycle ride, she thought he looked so healthy and so strong. Even though he’d been involved in a few silly falls, she generally didn’t worry about him
“Why don’t you come along?” he asked. “I’ll let you lead.”
“No thanks, you go ahead,” she answered. There’d been a time she would’ve joined him. Many times she’d enjoyed riding with him.
Looking back on it, she remembered thinking something wasn’t quite right with him, and when he didn’t return within the hour he’d set, she began to worry. Indeed, had she’d known of the chest pains, she would’ve prevented him from going. She kept coming back to that.
And now what? Sid’s heart attack and death hit her hard. It happened when she wasn’t there, during a bicycle ride that she refused to go on. It struck without warning, or so she thought, because she never knew about the chest pains. Now she’ll have to live alone.
He died within sight of a summit and without anyone else around. She knew the view from there, a view that extended for miles and miles. Why did he have to spoil the view for her? She didn’t feel ready to go there to lay a wreath, build a shrine, nor do something else. To even go to her husband’s funeral was a struggle.
Well, around the house unable to stop crying she puttered and moped and avoided opening his side of the closet. She didn’t know yet what she’d do with his clothing. She tried not to think about it because it hurt too much. She tried to gather all the things around the house that reminded her of him and place them in his study. She didn’t know if she could give any of it away. She threw away a few things, which caused her great pain. All she could see ahead of her was a long dreary road. She didn’t know what she would do next, nor if she could get on a bicycle again. It was funny how she couldn’t follow her own advice and adopt a cat. It was way too soon, too soon for many things.
Feeling puny and putrid she didn’t feel like eating, and she listened for Sid’s voice…wanted to hear Sid’s voice. Ached and missed him more than anything. Yearned to feel his arms encircling her again and then cried. Broke down in the shower, broke down in the car, and when she cried it embarrassed her. Broke down when she suddenly found herself in the middle of an intersection too. She couldn’t help herself. And felt like she’d never be happy again. So she cleaned, cleaned the windows, clear and cleaned both porches, kept the bathroom sparkling, and pulled all the weeds in the yard. And as she worked herself to death, she kept recalling this and that about Sid. Oh, the memories. They were so painful.
There were days when she couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes she couldn’t answer the door even for friends. She resented unsolicited advice or help. No one understood when everyone thought they did. Their assumptions were bull. It got where it didn’t make any difference who was around and who came and went. She just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Die and be with Sid.
Be brave. Don’t cry. Jesus wept. According to the Bible, God saves our tears in a bottle. Talking to her son helped. And as he came around more, accepting the help became easier for her.
It was harder and lonelier at night. That was when she would listen for Sid’s voice. Barking dogs would irritate her. If only she could hear his voice and know he was there. Damn him! When she wasn’t paying attention, she burned herself on the stove. Horrors! She laughed about it.
Yet may she not still have a life, even after what she’s faced? Why did she need such a big house? What if she sold it? Each room held memories. Ah, sure, she loved the house, but why did she need so much room? But she didn’t move right away. Too soon for it too. .
So now what? From a catatonic, shattered state she began to emerge and began a search for a new beginning. As the fog began to lift, she began to see that she might have a future. Maybe she could get closer to her son and spend more time with grandchildren and friends.
Sid should’ve told her about his chest pains, so that they could’ve done something about them. But Pat knew that she couldn’t go back. That last morning they read books while they ate their breakfast, all absorbed, him about God and the universe and her about crime and mystery. When they spoke, it was about the news of the day. “But see!” She exclaimed, thinking about him. “See what happened to you!”
Now go in peace. It was all very private. Funny how she didn’t go riding with him! Peace! She knew that she needed to move down the road. Get on a bicycle again. Peace. Peace. Only she wished that there were a way to soften the blow.
But she knew that her life would be tougher and rougher without Sid. She’d just have to find her confront zone.