Duncan, BC - Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Shy and silent. Thatís me. Or so I used to think Ė when I was an adolescent. But now, as an adult, I seem awfully talkative.
Last night, in the emergency ward, I was keen to chat with everyone.
As I sat waiting for my x-ray, I spoke with a sweet ten-year-old girl who had broken her arm on the first day of summer camp. She was accompanied by a wonderfully supportive camp counsellor, a recent kinesiology graduate.
I broke my arm when I was seven, I told her. At the hospital they put a gas mask over my face to put me to sleep. Suddenly, pirates invaded and all the doctors and nurses ran away and hid Ė one nurse even hid under my bed Ė and left me helplessly exposed to the fearful marauders. But when I woke up, the pirates were gone and I had a cast on my arm.
Iím glad that she giggles, and I advise her that when she goes back to camp sheíll be a star. Everyone else will want a cast just like hers. Then the nurse comes and says that sheíll need a general anesthetic, and the little girl starts to cry. Maybe I shouldnít have told my story.
Later, after Iíve had my stitches, I see her again, white cast and shy smile, and I tell her that she is a very brave girl. Her little brother is following close behind, and he wants to get a cast too.
About 1 am I return to my hotel and speak with a sullen and taciturn man in his mid-thirties. He doesnít respond to anything I say but, finally, seeing my knee, asks what happened. I explain and heís unexpectedly fraternal and sympathetic. He owns a motorcycle and knows all about that panicky moment when a two-wheeler begins to slide sideways on a loose gravel slope.
Now that Iíve been encouraged, I continue with my story. I talk to him about my wifeís death last summer, how devastating it has been for me;, and the only way I can find any peace is by riding my bike across the country Ė to honour her life and to support her cause.
We have bonded. He tells me about his daughterís death and the book he is writing. Iím writing a book too, I confide; itís about my wife and my journey.
Our conversation could go on for hours, but itís late and so I take my leave. He grasps my arm tightly and looks straight into my eyes. ďDonít ever give up,Ē he beseeches. We both know that heís talking more to himself than to me.
ďI wonít ever give up,Ē I assure him. ďUnless I have two broken legs, Iíll be biking again tomorrow.Ē This is my adrenaline-fueled bravado talking.
In my hotel room, I sit down in front of my laptop and plot out a new GPS route. Iím obsessed with following the Trans Canada Trail wherever it goes, but as my leg begins swelling, I know Iím in no condition to be pushing my bike up and down hiking trails and rugged detours. The Trail has no bridge over the Nanaimo River and Iím no longer interested in struggling to reach the non-existent crossing Ė and then making an improvised 25-km bypass that will include a long stretch down the freeway.
So I simplify and shorten the route and download it to my Garmin. And I check my emails and write a few replies. By now itís 3 am and I crawl into bed gratefully and contentedly.
The next morning, when I look at the clock, itís 8 am. Iíve overslept. Still, I take time to eat a hearty breakfast, eggs benedict and bacon and hash browns and toast.
Margaret and David go out to the nearest pharmacist to get my prescription filled for Cephalexin Ė 500 mg four times daily Ė and then suddenly Iím overcome with nausea. I grab hold of a chair to keep from fainting, and then struggle to reach the bed to lie down.
How can I cycle today if I canít even stand up? I begin to weep. ďIím doing the best I can,Ē I sob. ďElizabeth, I wonít let you down.Ē
I cry myself out, the nausea passes and then itís time to go.
For the first few minutes, I probably look like a lopsided one-legged clown. When I pedal, my left knee wonít bend enough for me to stay in my seat. But it limbers up and soon Iíve hit a rhythmic stride.
We make good time riding along the asphalt highways and byways that make up todayís trip along the Trans Canada Trail, and we successfully skirt two missing bridges along the route.
I wonít ever give up.
Photo by Edmund A. Aunger