Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Best Gift to Give the World

I’ve never told anyone this story. I guess I’m a really private person. I don’t share things that mean a lot to me…only the inconsequential BS.

My husband and I always owned a motorcycle. My favorite was a Yamaha 1100. It was a big bike that you could ride comfortably for long trips. We would meet up with our friends, who also owned bikes, and ride up to Grapevine Lake on weekends. We’d build a big fire and roast hot dogs. We made so many wonderful miles and memories on that bike.

After our divorce, I moved into the same apartment complex as my husband and his new girlfriend. It was just my little quirky sense of humor. They were planning to get married so I thought, “Hmmm, moving in next door to them will be my special wedding gift.”

So my ex called me one day and says, “Hey, I just bought a new bike. Wanna go for a ride?”

I said, “Sure, I’ll meet you outside in a few minutes.”

So I put on my jeans and tennis shoes and went outside and he pulled up on a really nice dark blue Kawasaki 900. We talked about the bike and all its glory. People that love bikes will understand—we stand around a lot and discuss all the specs on our machines.

Finally I went over to climb on the back. I’ve ridden motorcycles my whole life…even in the coldest weather. If we were going on a long trip, I would just wrap my arms around my husband’s stomach and go to sleep and he’d wake me up when we got there.

I went to throw my leg over the bike and couldn’t. For years, my legs had been getting worse due to post-polio syndrome. My ex tried to help me but it was no use. Finally, after 10 minutes of trying, it hit me that I would never be able to ride a bike again. My legs weren’t strong enough to get on and off anymore.

I stood right there in the midday sunlight in the middle of that parking lot and cried like a baby. My husband got teary eyed too. “It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Bikes are dangerous anyway.”

He smiled and tried to reassure me but right then I knew that my life was going in a bad direction and I would not like the end game.

Right now, I’m a few years away from the end of my life. When you reach this point, you stop worrying about all the small stuff and just try to finish out your course with as much dignity as possible.

I don’t have time for regrets anymore. Every day where I can feel the wind on my face is a miracle. I don’t make excuses either for my mistakes. All I can say is what I always used to say each time I would reach the end of a long deployment.

I used to travel a lot and work disasters for FEMA. I’ve spent lots of time in little towns that were virtually destroyed by a big storm. No matter how hard the work was and how difficult the clients could be, I’d always say this one thing while driving toward the city limits and leaving to go home:

“Well, I enjoyed my time here.”

That’s all I have to say about my life and my time on this planet. I mostly enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I made some friends. I leave behind some family. And a whole lot of stories.

I tried to write it all down in case anyone wanted to see through my eyes what New Orleans looked like right after Katrina. Or what polio feels like. Or what it feels like when your family abandons you. Someday maybe someone will read the stories and they’ll feel something of what it was like to be me.

I always encourage people to write their stories down and leave them for their friends and family. Humans have always passed those stories on from one generation to another and that’s an important part of our culture and legacy.

Someday perhaps the humans won’t exist anymore. But perhaps an alien species will find some of our stories and they’ll read them and see what it was like to live on our planet—what it was like to be a woman or even a human being.

For a brief moment, those aliens will have some idea of what our lives were like. They’ll say, “Wow! It’s too bad the humans don’t exist anymore. They had a pretty cool culture. Wish we could have known them.”