Jon is the bald bearded guy (almost two years in to chemo treatments) in front row center. This picture is from the Tau Kappa Epsilon annual reunion in 2014. Jon died this past October 2016 from cancer after a nearly four-year battle.
I have no reservations and no set plan, I’ve finally figured out what this trip is about, just that. And being okay with it. Is this the one? The one trip without my kids that will clear my head, give me clarity that I am somehow missing right now? What am I looking for anyway? I know one thing, the need for simplicity in this ever-complicated life that I’m in seems to be always out of reach. Maybe that will be my mantra for the next few days: find the simplicity. You should hear me laughing at myself about that goal right now, so easy to say, harder to do, and most difficult to achieve. Fuck it, I’m doing it, my body will go forward and my brain just needs to catch up. I’ll be bringing my touring bike, my beloved Auriel, to share the journey.
The prompt for this road trip in the first place is to deliver packets of Jon’s ashes to his TKE brotherhood at their annual reunion this year in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania. This was a highlight of every year that Jon looked forward to, and the anticipation of getting together for golf or fishing, food, and endless story telling was built up in laugh-out-loud texting between them all in what felt like months in advance of this rambunctious weekend. Jon will attend this year, only in a different form. My eyes are burning now as tears well up about the meaning and importance of this. Jon would have wanted this, and I am doing it especially for those who could not attend his official memorial service last November.
So Thursday into Friday, I will visit with these beloved people, and I am looking forward to their embraces, hearing stories, and having good laughs. I’m sure I’ll be crying too, but it all is the same to me anymore: raw emotion just spills out most of the time unannounced. I will not conduct some ashes service, I will leave that up to them in their own way and time. Friday afternoon, I will drive east, following along to the coast. There are a few state parks and landscapes that I hope to come upon, stopping where my sense of direction leads me in several states. Cycling through and around to see what I see. I’m trusting in a bit of bike magic to help me find my way, plus I love what I drive, so if the road feels good, I’ll be on it listening to playlists at a volume that syncs with my heartbeat.
On the return trip to Michigan, I will visit my Dad back in Pennsylvania. We haven’t seen each other in several months. This past May, it was one year since my Mom died, a mere five months before Jon’s passing. My Dad is hanging in there, finding his own way. He sees white butterflies that comfort him, and I am grateful for their watching over him in my absence. Time is standing still for him in many ways now. Maybe that’s another reason why I can’t stop moving, and want so much to go somewhere: for me, but also for him. “Watch me, Dad, I’m living my life to its fullest despite my losses. I want you to be proud of the woman I am, know that our father-daughter bond of love we worked so hard to keep is irreplaceable, and that we both desperately miss the people we love.”
I picked up my bike yesterday from my shop. I finally got around to getting my gears adjusted so I’m not pulling up so hard to get into third. I added two water bottle holders and bought a pouch to mount for easier access to my phone. While checking out, I met one of the owners, Dawn. Before I knew it, I was babbling to her about this trip, and my story of loss. She said, “It sounds like you’re going to have quite an adventure.” I told her that I’ve put in over 500 miles in cycling on the road as of this week this year, and that biking is a way that I deal with my grief. It’s just what I do. I look over at my bike, smiling at it like I’m gazing at a best friend, and also tell her how much this bike is like me: it’s used and has a few dents, but when I saw it, it was perfect for me. This bike still has plenty of life in it and many more miles to go, and so do I. Let’s face it, this bike is me. Here we go, our first adventure together, together indeed. ~Paula