Entries in family (67)
Seven Eleven PM
Seven Eleven 2008
We made it in time. The family gathered around. I’ll get to that….
Growing up Irish and Catholic and east coast is problematic and beautiful all at the same time. It's a vicious cocktail of passion and love and guilt and rage and peace and comedy which is combined to create a blood so thick that it can be the only thing responsible for the Faith this family has had in itself, and for a man and wife to be married for 50 years.
The prior posts have led to this. My father has not been well and his condition worsened in such a ferocious pace these last two weeks. It was startling to us all including his doctors. By 6 AM this morning, my sisters said simply “…this is it. We'll do what we can to help him be alive but try if you can to get here soon.” And within 20 minutes, I was booked and bound for the east coast later this morning.
I went over to Tad ‘s house after school one day. Took Bus 6 home with him to play. Bill showed up too and what started out fun, turned into a vicious tag team of those guys versus me in a way that made me doubt myself, my life my whole being. Them against me. I never experienced alienation before in my life and theirs came in such a frontal assault that I felt nothing but betrayal. I just ran away from them and never looked at those kids the same way again. The walk home was really long. Up and down the hills of my small town in Connecticut until I finally made it home and met my parents unexpectedly after dinner. I cried. I was betrayed and ousted out of that circle of what I thought were my friends. The next day was Saturday. Paper route day and a big route. Dad took me in the car this time and when we got to the last mailbox on the route, he did not do the U turn he normally did to go back home but drove on atypically. I asked him “Where we going? To the store?” He just said “Umm, nah, I’ve got to get this thing I forgot to pick up.” So we drove for a bit and he banged into the shopping plaza and parked in front of the new bike store that opened a few weeks prior. He shut off the Volare’s motor and turned to me and as he did so the seats crinkled with that faux leathery sound: “My son will never walk home from anywhere again.” And he took me inside and allowed me to choose the bike I wanted. It was a GT Pro Performer. White. I was 12.
I walked into the critical care unit tonight and I walked in to the room to an array of smiles. My mom, sisters and brother in law. There he was. "Papa!" I yelled but this time he did not turn to look at me like he did last time. He was certainly different than he was even two weeks ago when I came to see him. Thinner. Machines were keeping him alive. His eyes were moving with lids 3/4 shut. He was so hot when I leaned over and kissed him on his forehead. A fever raging given the chemical pneumonia that had begun two nights ago.
We are all there. My left hand reached under the sheets and found his and I interlocked my fingers with those of his left hand. I could feel my ring clink against his. Two married men deeply in love with the wives who make us the men we are, and mom next to me with my sisters and my brother in law watching over us who has guided us all like an angel these dark days. We phase in and out of gut laughs to cries of disbelief that this is it. But we mostly smile.
The machinery displayed numbers that do not lie. We watched as numbers declined.
I could smell the exhaust of the car as he’d start this old Mazda up on winter mornings. My room above the garage so the smell would just seep through. He’d be up at 4:45 and on the road by 5 to catch the 6:20 train from Stamford to NYC. A commute he did every day for 25 years. Winters in Connecticut are legendary, and Mazdas with their rotary pea shooter engines are not capable of much in snow. So I’d sit and watch him from the window from my bedroom as he try to propel the car UP the hill….then watch it come sliding back down. Then UP again….and slide on back down again. Comedy. Five children raised. All put through college on his wage. The dedication to try and get a Mazda up a snowy treacherous hill to get to work the symbol of dedication to us.
We were all there as the numbers cascaded to zero. The heat in him still raging as he shuddered and then peacefully drifted off. His spirit was long ago released and watching us watch him. Watching as we were stroking the whitening hair on his head. Forehead kissed. I know this.
My hand released his. And I ensured precision when I placed it back upon him. I laid out his fingers on his belly for a moment and then put mine on top of his. Measuring the exactness of the similarities of our hands. The largeness of our knuckles and the thinness of our fingers. I pulled the blanket back over.
My hands are his. I am like him. I am like you. You are like yours. You are needed and wanted. You are loved and you live. I say this to you my readers for whatever it may be worth.
Life is a series of choices. Choose to be there. Whatever 'there' may mean to you.
Keep the Faith my father. My choices past and future are eternally rooted in things you taught me.
As I've talked about....a lot these days...real life is demanding me be present. And I'm there. I need to continue to be a keystone for those that I love. So recreational things like going out for monster rides, specified training, fun racing like the short track's....just have to get back burnered for now. The Firecracker 50 was a blast, and I'm stoked to have had the time, a unique window these days to do it, but now I begin a two week hiatus of travel, family visits and focus on the tough stuff that life is requiring of me.
At the expense of sounding like a cheese ball and using a cyclocross analogy, now is the time for the real hup hup. The time where I need to use some of that grit reserved for throwing down in races, now to throw down for others in life. Make them feel a sense of the hup hup to put one foot in front of the other and focus on what is right...what's working in life for them and provide reasons for the next foot to be put squarely in front of the last. The mud is thick in situatons like this and often the mind has no way to slice through it. My job now is to help those that need it to float across it.
I'll be there pushing somewhere the next few weeks in some way. When you throw your leg over your ride this week for your ride, put in a one minute all out interval, max watts, max heart rate....simply for those that can't. Step outside yourselves for just a minute while on that ride and think of the fortunes you have in life. What's working for you. There's always plenty of time to dwell on what's not, right? Try to syncopate your good health and your good fortunes while you're doing something you love.
Hup hup my friends.
First, apologies. I have been shirking my responsibilities as a blogger and have been devoid of content for posts but to be honest, I have not been all that inspired these days. I get in front of the keyboard and...nothing. Thoughts are uninspiring, Food is devoid of taste. I'm just crusty these days I guess.
Losing Darren in May was hard. Shortly thereafter, hearing my dear friend and team mate Joe Il Campione is going to face and man-handle the Type B Non-Hodgkin's out of him was staggering. Finally a week later learning my father is facing a tough battle with the cancer that has made its home in his pancreas and liver was all I could handle.
But I get to handle it. I'm alive and healthy and I'm needed.
What is needed of me is to close my eyes and think and pray and look ahead and live and communicate that life. And within that burning hope, be able to continue to communicate it with truth and conviction to those that will likely want to look into my eyes and try and find it as worlds are crumbling around. I am blessed to support those I love and do so with an intensity that causes a demonstrable pain in me when I focus on this love I need to share. Was born to share. The effort to create and communicate hope must be boundless and it is a deeper energy that any bike race can ever strain you with.
I'm scared for all of the families and individuals facing these roads. What's being faced is anyone's nightmare. And as spoken about before, the bravery witnessed is blinding and somewhat shameful in an odd way. In a way that questions whether if I were faced with like conditions, if I'd be as brave.
So I sit and think on it all.
I never anticipated writing any of this. I desperately want to write about cross and bikes and racing and all the fun that it entails. I'm the Lab with his tail always wagging. The wagging has stopped for now as the gravity of things applies its necessary weight and I am there to support it.
And I'll continue to look ahead.
I witnessed things this week that have forever changed me. I have met true angels, I've seen our medical system and all its awkward and litigious underpinnings....underpinnings that present themselves first, before the patient. But ultimately I have been in the presence of bravery that will stay with me and if I am 1/2 the man of my father, I will try to pass on a semblance of that bravery to my sons.
Keep the faith my father. We are walking with you and you have yet again inspired us.
In 1997 I took an opportunity that changed my life. It was to go and work with a small team of folks in San Francisco on some progressive technology and literally be in a start up that was going places. Fast forward and we succeeded. 15 people in a crappy building on Montgomery Street to a 500 person, $100mm dollar company. Great.
Back to 1997. It was a time that was mentally straining for me personally. I left New York to take that chance in San Francisco and in doing so left my family and friends. In fact, many predicted that my crusty East Coast-ness would ensure my demise amongst the peace, love and free-ness of the West Coast. But as we all know, the bike scene and the business being built ensured that wasn’t to be and the West Coast became my own. Most importantly, the woman that I'd resigned myself to never meeting was met and she became my life. San Francisco became my identity and my home.
During those early years, my mind shifted frequently. Violently. Would I fail? Was I doing the right thing? Have I abandoned people? Would I go back with my tail between my legs? Was the gamble the right one? I don’t dream any more, but the dreams then came fast and vivid and intense. Especially one on a specific night that truly I will never forget....
I could feel my entire family was there as I opened the heavy wooden doors to an anonymous 1920's-built brick cathedral in any town New Jersey. I knew I was late. As soon as I moved from the intensity of the outside light to the darkness inside the cathedral, I struggled to adjust to the light while my nose was overpowered with incense and the smells of the Catholic environment I grew up with. It was overwhelming but at the same time comforting.
My eyes stung but finally adjusted. They were all there.
All my living relatives as well. My sisters, mom, brother. My cousins and all those I spent my eternity growing up with and learning from. My Aunt Delores and her brother, my Uncle Ed...brother and sister to my own dad. They came to me and they had been waiting for my arrival. Totally smiling and beaming. Proud. I remember. They whispered things but I honestly couldn’t hear but their demeanor and pleasant smiles were irresistible. I basically floated along with them past all those familiar family faces as they brought me close to another set of doors. I drifted past faces of the living, save theirs, but all the while comfortable and happy as I know they were proud of me and I just allowed them to lead me.
We arrive at the doors where I knew instinctively they were bringing me. I’d seen this scene before and they needed me to be first. They needed me to lead the family into this room of pride where he was, waiting for all of us.
I looked at the two of them closely and saw them exactly as they were. Their features distinctive as I knew them in their lives. Delores’s shock of white hair perfectly styled in a way that never deviated from the 60’s and Uncle Ed’s receding hairline and happy eyebrows and that smile that I see in my own face and that of my dad’s.
They both smile an encouragement and with an arm each…Delores with her left and Ed with his right open the doors for me. I walk in leading everyone to the room of pride and he is there. Waiting. Lying. Smiling. It was his time to come back to the deepest, and truest, part of the faith he’s kept for his entire life. And all were waiting. And all were beaming.
Papa! I said. We’re all here man! My hands were on the velvet as I stood over him smiling, I knew all. Literally all of peace at that moment...even as I would be one to go on living. And yet the peace was emanating from him as the faith was strong so it was all entirely OK. All would be OK. My decisions were the right ones and his smile ensured that it would be OK. There was confirmation of pride.
And then I woke up. Completely at peace and with unshakable confidence over what's to come. The foundation in my conscious and exactly how I’d feel when this was to occur in the waking life were built from that one dream that I’d need to draw on some day.
I am calling upon that now. He’s very sick and I am going to be with him this weekend. I’m going to recall on that strength I inherited….or maybe gifted….in that dream.
Be well. Sleep soundly my friends and think of those you love in your dreams.
This is not a dress rehersal.
Fatherhood. I wouldn't even know where to begin if I were to blog about being a dad. It's nothing short of miraculous. And there are many dimensions to that miracle. From seeing your child born to their first gut laugh to walking to talking to running to riding to controlling your impulse to duct tape them up into a ball and put them in the closet when they whine.....well, it just goes fast. The work is put in every day by my wife and me to focus on these children growing up healthy, happy and most of all, as respectful gentleman. Yeah, we're in the full on 'poopy' phase where they fall apart in ball uncontrollably laughing if they hear the word poo or see a diaper, but as my mom has told me countless times: "Choose your battles." So I've got that going for me....
So like all good Hallmark Holidays, dad's get theirs too. And the fellas did it up right. Today was the epic, or now called, the Ned-ic. An apparent record was set on the RTD bus to Ned today according to the driver who was overseeing the loading of the bikes into the belly of the bus. I wish I had counted, but it was packed to say the least.
The Boulder Cycling Mafia was fairly well represented today, save for Bobby who rode 8 hours Saturday and followed that up with 24 beers in fast succession. Sorry you missed the Ned-ic, Bobby. We had The Torrence bros in the house, Waltworks, FRZ, J-Fry and Bri....too many to name.
When we got to Ned and unloaded, we began our journey. By the time we got to the high school, we split ways with quite a few of the folks and the 'Lucky 7' shaked out. We were led by Dave "I will NOT get you lost, I've got a GPS" Weber, Freeride Zach, Nick Stevens, Antonio G, IMBA Drew, Rob "I am Gonna show you some" Love and yours truly. We threw it down for roughly 3:45, which does not seem like an 'epic', but 4000' of altitude gain at 8-9K feet over 40 miles is a good'un in my book.
Dave W did NOT disappoint. He actually scouted this the weekend before with that GPS and my GOD, we were on literal pristine technical singletrack for MILES. This one section in the vicinity of Lump Gulch was so sick, I started to pop a....OK, trying to keep this a clean site. We traversed up this technical rock climb that required tons of body English and insane power to get up and over. Tons of matches burned but it felt too damn good.
Wheelies pulled, tabletops launched, some skin lost, swerving in and out of trees. My God, what a day to be alive and healthy. It was insane to see these parts of our state that even core MTB'ers rarely see. SO, with fried legs and limited liquids. we made our way back to Boulder and celebrated by ceremonially dipping in the Boulder Creek. the muscles thanked me.
Work has been all consuming as we acquired a fairly large company and have been knee deep in integrating. The good news is that the new crew and offices are in some of my old stomping grounds in Scotts Valley, CA, a stones throw from Santa Cruz. The even better news is that there are some core bikers in the new crew and I'm getting dialed into lunchtime ride action, etc. Got to get a bike out there....
I dialed in some trail runs in the early morning hours amongst the redwoods. This picture says it all. The trail then dwindled down into sweet single track, famous in the area. The running has been going on but I applied myself these few days and flew which was cool. I felt light.
But STILL, this year will be different. It already feels different. Darren gone and my father having had a scare combined with the increased level of intensity at work and i feel lost again. Lost in the sense that i have no ability to focus and it's incredibly hard to put the cross hairs on anything meaningful these days and believe in it. The family has been my sanctuary and I'm blessed for that. I've got to dig a bit deeper and try and keep my hands on the control stick as this gets squirly. T's in my camp and he knows me by now and can help me traverse the nastiness as I continue to try and stay fit, but ultimately it is up to me. What I want and what is important.
I'm going to go into channel zero mode on my ride today. See what comes about and see i I can focus mysely on this ride and understand a bit what the engine has left in it.
It's now a few days into all this. My wife is by every definition a hero. She was able to be by her sister's side in under 10 hours. She has turned off her instinct which is to feel for the situation and emote on it...instead to be stoic and strong and be the hand that her sister is holding during this period...even while her sister may not even realize she's gripping a hand.
She's just there for her.
Dealing with estate planners. Dealing with funeral homes. Dealing with...honestly just dealing to keep her sister's family strong.
I am manning the fort. I am answering my sons' questions on Uncle Darren's passing. I am not comfortable in explaining how it all occurred as I am in the air 3 times a month at a minimum.
I got the kids to school today and I started working and then had a categorical f-it moment. I can't focus and I went to purge. Jumped on the 9'er and rolled Heil from home. I bomb up the road in the AM sun and see some things moving and they are just MONSTER turkeys. So I snap pics and day dream....
We go up to Madison to hang with Darren and family. We are tight cousins with children the same age...perfect. We've been to Italy together, Disney Land together..you name it. D takes me on his greatest passion: a hunting trip for the day. He's a Utah boy and it's in his blood. We're going for Turkey and we've got 12g over/unders and some food and a whole day to chill. In fact, I get to use his dad's prized Browning Field Grade that day so I am honored.
We go out a hiking in these epic pastures of Wisconsin. Shots here and there but I get squat. It's beautiful and freezing cold. D's all gussied up in his hunting best...I'm in sweat pants, Wellingtons and invariably making WAY too much noise for a purist like Darren. We get ourselves to a point where there is a small brook crossing...about 3 feet wide and sincerely about 2 to 2.5 inches deep water. A "no brainer" as it were.
I take a casual step across this mellow trickling brook and HOLY SHI*T!!! I sink up top my pathetic yang in quicksand.
Darren is on the stream's bank about crapping himself laughing at me. So, I open the chambers and eject the shells and have to hurl his papas Browning at him (which he caught).
I'm an awesome hunter.
D did end up getting a fatty for us all which we Q'd up that evening. He should me how to clean and prep that beast for dinner.
It goes by quick folks. It ain't a dress rehearsal. Live this shit like you have no idea.
Which you don't.
The ride was purging. Beautiful. Now to continue the balance. It is easier with that ever so small adjustment to the mind's lens. I need no large wake up calls. I live life I feel as fully as I can. But to ensure it is as clean and pure as I can...that is another level of balance.
Can I? Are you?
It continues to be unthinkable as I type this. It continues to be...as it is often suggested...like a nightmare that you phase in and out of during the waking hours and yet when the mind's haze realizes once again like a wave that it is real and he's never coming back, the wave happens again and engulfs you. It starts as this rush of heat and panic somehow intertwined with one another with a race of the heart that feels more rooted in the stomach than in the chest. The moment your mind settles in to its normal peaceful rhythm it is shattered.
We lost him last night.
Christ please stop this. We lost him and that wave is back and it again is real.
The ring woke us shockingly at 3 AM. Those calls occur at night occasionally but thankfully they're often by mis-dials and you settle yourself back down in bed once the heart stops racing and your eyes, which remain open for a bit thinking and refuse to shut, close themselves on their own and allow you back to your peaceful sleep.
The caller ID this time was our loved one.
It is too soon to know why or what or how. The helicopter was brand new. Maintenance perfect. The pilot and doctor on this med-flight dear friends. 100's...1000's of flying hours. The nurse on board a compatriot.
They delivered their human cargo like an angel would have done...safe....at the hospital. And they flew off again to repeat this mission of life saving like they have done 100's of times before.
They fell off the grid. It lies in pieces. It is our lives.
Darren, can you hear me? I've nothing but a key board right now and the wave of heat that keeps going through me will not stop. Can you hear us? We love you our lawful brother, our husband, our father our son. You have two children my children's age. You have a wife...the sister of mine. Darren....please Christ wrap him in your love.
You need to look outside right now whoever reads this. You need to find a way to do this. For one second in your life heed this. Read the characters on your screen but listen to the message. You need to find light right now and you need to feel it on your face. You need to listen to me like no one has ever talked to you before and do nothing but breathe once you have found that source of light.
Reflect. On what is important.
The next mission is to reach out. You need to embrace those that enable you to be a better person. A better husband. A better cyclist. A better father. A better son. Find them and touch them. Even if it is as inconspicuous as putting a hand on their shoulder...or engulfing them in a hug.
Exchange love with them. For Christ or whomever you need to you feel light on your face and you feel that love of yours being exchanged.
It can not be replaced.
The pieces are scattered. My love is with her sister. They are facing something that should never be faced. But must.
This is not a dress rehearsal. There are no winners, only those who have acted beautifully in the play we're born into.
Darren, I love you.
What do we do.