A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos is still on sale for 99 cents in digital format. It’s the story of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a forty-foot motor home. Here’s how it begins – on a day when three events presaged some difficult changes in our lives.
Thursday, September 9 – Change
Psalm 55:22 (KJV) Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
There it was–a dump truck, coming straight toward me on a road with no shoulders and no place to go. The Department of Transportation’s motorcycle safety course teaches you to look where you want to go, and the bike will follow your line of vision. That would probably have worked, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the truck. Instead, the world shifted into slow motion, and one thought trailed across my mind: I’m going to die.
Avoiding a collision
It should have been easy to slow a little, push a little harder on the right hand grip, and swing back into my lane. Filled as I was with a full rush of adrenaline, nothing was easy, and I leaned hard into the right-hand curve. With a death grip on the throttle, I revved the engine, straightening my trajectory and sending the bike straight into the path of the truck. I heard the right footrest screech against the asphalt, and I felt it give way under the weight of the 700-pound motorcycle. I pulled my left leg up toward my chest , and I heard the crashing sounds as both the front and back wheels of the truck hit the bike.
I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know if a heavenly hand reached down and plucked me off the bike or if I tucked and rolled, bouncing up at the end like a gymnast after a tumbling run. The next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of the road, surrounded by bike parts: a headlight; the footboard, where my left foot had rested; and various, unidentifiable bits of chrome.
The bike was a blue 2002 Harley Heritage Softtail that I called the Blue Angel. She was beautiful, loud, and had chrome in places where most bikes don’t have places. When I rode her, I felt powerful and beautiful and shiny, just like her, and I rode every chance I got. Now, she was lying on the side of the road with a trail of broken bits and pieces behind her.
In a daze, I wandered over and said to no one in particular, “I guess my riding days are over.”
My husband David was leading the ride. Out of sight around the next curve and deafened by the roar of his pipes, he was unaware of what was going on. James and Peggy, our neighbors and riding buddies, were bringing up the rear. James pulled up beside me and made sure I was still breathing before speeding away to catch up with David.
I watched him until he was out of sight, and then I sat down Unlike my Angel, I was bruised and shaken, but not broken. My helmet was scraped, and the visor hung from one snap. There was a slight cut on the bridge of my nose from my glasses. My elbows were skinned, and the length of my right thigh stung from road rash. A dull ache on my left hip presaged a huge bruise
, and my left instep was swollen and turning blue–but I was alive.
Peggy and the truck driver had just dragged my bike out of the path of oncoming traffic when an Arkansas Highway Patrol car arrived. The next few minutes were a blur of activity. I watched it all from the cocoon of numbness that surrounds you after a traumatic event. I answered questions when they were asked and signed my name when it was required, but mostly I thought about what had just happened.
I had been following David like always. He rides a black 2000 Harley Road King Classic. As we had been winding through the trees and hills on a beautiful two-lane road, I’d felt good, enjoying both the memory of David’s compliments about what a good rider I was becoming and the elegance of his riding style. Even after a couple of decades as a civilian, he still had his military posture, and he looked almost regal in the saddle. He had pulled ahead of me a bit, so I had given the Angel a little more gas–a little too much as it turned out. I had gone into a right-hand curve a little too hot and swung out just over the yellow line.
If I could just hit the rewind button and take that curve one more time.
Once the formalities were done, I watched the shiny, twisted remains of the Angel being towed away on a flatbed trailer. I climbed onto the buddy seat of the Road King, back where my bike-riding days had started, riding two-up behind David. Our shrunken caravan rode off in search of a place to eat dinner and lick our wounds.
Sitting on the back gives you time to think and pray. I thanked God for His mercy, amazed at what I had survived. I also asked why it had happened and if my riding days were really over. The only response I received in those moments of quiet meditation was a sense that I’d know when it was time to ride again. So far, I’m still riding two-up behind David.
The day wasn’t over…
Buy Link: A Long and Winding Road