La just sent me this picture from her phone — she’s one day from the end of the ride, somewhere north of Ventura.
On Wednesday, the AIDS Lifecycle came close to where I am, so I got to go out and find Lala. I spent two hours at the lunch site, cheering SO MANY riders in, and ohmygod, did I get so sunburned. I got sunburned like I ain’t been sunburned in a long time. I am a tomato.
Lunch was held at the Cuesta College campus. So strange: 17 years ago, I was a student there. Okay, wait. There’s something majorly wrong with that sentence. I need to do some math. I majored in English. Hang on.
Seventeen YEARS? That means when I went to community college, I could have had a child, and by now, I could BE A GRANDMOTHER by the child I had when I was in college. I’m thirty-five. Good god.
I think Lala and her Forty-Woes are rubbing off on me.
Anyway. Before I got my Bachelor’s, way before I got my Master’s, I went to Cuesta. I don’t think I ever received an Associate’s from them — I was just marking time. I knew I wasn’t ready to leave home, not ready to leave Mom. I turned down partial- and full-ride scholarships to good schools so I could sing vocal jazz and act in a community college’s musical theatre department. I still lived at home, so I had this wonderful, gorgeous, long drive out through the country behind San Luis Obispo, out to school. I loved everything about those drives — the hills, the valleys, the wildflowers, the old monastery you pass up on a hill and if you were really lucky, you could sometimes see a brown-cassocked monk getting out of his truck, picking up the mail. The wild mustard was my favorite out there — when it’s in bloom, it looks like sunshine, even in the fog of the coast.
I used to drive out there, every day, thinking about my future life, about boys, about girls, about writing. Never, ever, ever did I think I’d be driving out there on a June morning, my mother in a bed somewhere behind me, my wife on a bike somewhere in front of me.
As I drove down the two-lane road out there in the hills, the first super-speedy riders had already finished lunch and were headed out. It made me cry to see them. I honked (gently, and from the other side of the road so as not to scare them) and cheered out my window.
Then I got to the lunch area, and cheered my lungs out. I went hoarse. I started to turn red in the sun (but didn’t know it).
Lala came in and I got to have lunch with her. She’s SUCH a trouper.
Other people were hobbling, and god knows I would have been crippled
for life, but she was just walking around like riding a bike for a week
is normal and not crazy like snorting-Elmer’s-glue-crazy.
I put her back on the road after lunch and leap-frogged ahead. I pulled over in Shell Beach, at Dinosaur Cave, a place we played a lot as children (and then in high school, come to think of it — sneaking down into the blowhole from the cliff-top — dangerous, so therefore thrilling). At first, it felt strange, standing on the side of the road, alone, cheering for the riders who filed by me, so close we could slap palms if we wanted to (I didn’t want to: I have no depth perception and would probably knock one off his bike on accident). But then I started to get the hang of it.
There are two ways to do it: Clap politely but loudly, and as he or she passes in front you, nod, and say in a regular voice, "Nice job." "Looking great." "You’re amazing." "You rule." "Keep it up." They grin and thank you back. Sometimes there’s a moment of real connection that’s pretty magical.
The other way is better when they come up to you in a clump: When they start to get close, start cheering, whooping and hollering, punching the air with your fist, even though you’re standing there alone on the road. This gets them pumped up, so they all start to whoop, and then this loud hollering mass of bikes goes past, and you did that, you got them excited again, got them to forget their tiredness for just a minute.
Bethany got there to cheer with me, carrying a sign Christy made, and it suddenly got easier. Two people cheering looks like two people cheering. One person cheering can just look like she might have forgotten her tinfoil hat at home.
We cheered for a while. Then, I forget how it happened, but between riders we admitted that we kept forgetting that this was the AIDS ride, not the Multiple Myeloma ride. We’d been so completely invested in being with Mom all the time — Mom was everything we were thinking about. To move from tiptoeing around the house to cheering outside in the sun, it was almost too overwhelming. And we were cheering for the riders, for the stand THEY were making against a disease that like cancer, takes too many, too young. Made my heart almost burst out of my chest.
Then we found Lala! We surprised her; she knew I’d be at lunch, but I hadn’t told her I’d see her later in the day.
Look at her! All ride-ified. You should see the farmer’s tan she’s sporting now. Time for a hug and a kiss and a bit of chat, and then she was back at it:
I get to go pick her up in LA tomorrow! I’m so excited, and I can’t wait for the closing ceremonies. Then we’ll be driving back up to Mom’s, where Lala will continue on with the car and leave me behind. We’re going to have a little birthday party for Mom, too. We’re going to make crowns out of doiles and colored paper. Glitter. We’ll have carrot cake, Mom’s favorite. She doesn’t know about it. Don’t tell her — it’s a secret.
Mom had a rough night last night. I keep forgetting that the reason I’m overly emotional (and long-winded, apparently) today is that I got NO SLEEP. At all. But today, man, is she on the good dope, and she’s sleeping now. And snoring. I tried to turn her over to stop the snoring but she just giggled, and when your mother giggles like that, there’s nothing to do but giggle back and put a pillow under her knees.
E.T.A. – La just sent me this photo – yet another reason she rides:
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