Back in the saddle again…

October 26, 2016

When my father retired from IBM, I remember my mother complaining about how he would sit around in his pajamas all day and watch old Gene Autry movies. It only lasted about three weeks before he got up and decided it was time to start the next phase of his life as a non-employee.

For over 30 years my father went to work Monday through Friday, every day wearing a suit and tie. Every meeting, every conference, every event, every business trip my father wore a suit and tie. Every Father’s Day we would buy him a new tie…because that’s what he wore…every day. If daddy decided he was going to wear his pajamas for three weeks straight and watch old movies all day long, that was his prerogative. I never worried about him during those weeks. He spent his entire adult life building a career and providing for his family…wearing a suit and tie. To NOT wear a suit and tie was a dream come true, let alone at age 55!

I recently found a photo of my sixth birthday:

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I laughed and cried when I saw this photo. Despite my father being away on business, he came home in time to give me my present:

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This is Teddy – he’s now 45-years-old and has been with me ever since, through every minute of my life.  He lost his clothing and shoes at some point (theory is that ole Dressy Bessy, Teddy’s first and only squeeze, took ’em), but he’s not embarrassed. He’s had ear, eye, chest, arm and leg surgeries over the years, all performed by Dr. Daddy, but he’s still in one piece. He now lives in my closet, but it’s insured safety from our cats. Every time I look at him, I think of that 6th birthday party…and I think of daddy.

My father wasn’t always there when we needed him, but he was there when it mattered. I thank G-d every day that my father was privileged to retire so young. He had 25 years of retirement – 25 years of cruises with mom from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Alaska…25 years of gardening and chasing critters from eating his bounty…25 years of playing “beat up the kid” in his pool…25 years of garage sales…25 years of New Years and Valentines Days, St. Patrick’s and Easters…Mother’s Days and Father’s Days and anniversaries and birthdays…Independence Days and fireworks and sparklers and Labor Day barbecues…Halloweens and Thanksgivings and Christmases…25 years of all this with his children…grandchildren…and great-grandchildren…

Wearing his pajamas and watching old movies all day long later in life worried me more. Dementia robbed my father of his ability to think about getting dressed. Watching the television was disturbing and unpleasant. Travel was impossible. The pool was gone. The last garage sale sold off the remainder of their belongings before moving to their final home. Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays were somber, me and my sisters having to take my father out to buy gifts because he could no longer drive. There were no more fireworks and the barbecue rusted out back. I prayed for G-d to have mercy on his soul – my father knew he couldn’t and didn’t want to live this way. His soul was granted peace before it was immersed by dementia’s grip…and I thanked G-d for his mercy.

One year ago today, I flew to Milwaukee to say goodbye to my big brother…

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…and there was my sky…

I prayed to G-d for mercy once again…and I thanked him…

The orthopedist told me to “give it one more week…” Guess what I did today?!

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Screw ’em!

“Whoopi-ty-aye-oh
Rockin` to and fro
Back in the saddle again
Whoopi-ty-aye-yay
I go my way
Back in the saddle again”

Back in the Saddle Again – Gene Autry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5F-O_19lSI

I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours

The Beast…

October 9, 2016

Just yesterday, I gave birth to a beautiful 5 lb. 14 oz. baby girl and today we visited our second university on our post-secondary education circuit tour…

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How is it possible, you ask, that you only gave birth to this child “yesterday” and that today you are looking at colleges?! Answer: Because life happens with every blink of the eye…children are a constant reminder of time passing – that life is happening, the clock is ticking, time is moving forward despite what you want and how you feel. The kid graduates in seven months and will begin the next phase of her life’s journey…college.

The interesting thing about this university, Drexel, is that we were completely oblivious to its existence. I’ve driven through this neighborhood and walked these streets dozens of times over the past 30 years. It was founded in 1891 – how could I not have noticed this place?! Then it hit me – because I wasn’t looking. Although I didn’t intend for the day to be part of my Gump Walk, I decided at this moment that today would be the first of my Gump Walk photos:

Of course, our drive to the campus was on the heals of Hurricane Matthew – torrential downpours and high winds. And the initial tour gave us more of the same – cold air, whipping winds and pouring rain…

But by the end of our tour on our way to lunch, there was my beautiful blue sky…

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There’s so much more to see when you’re not behind or on wheels…

This rather large statue stands at the corner of Market and 33rd Streets – you can’t miss it, it’s Drexel’s mascot…so how is it possible that in my lifetime I never noticed this beast?! His name is “Mario the Magnificient,” representing “ferocity and combativeness.” He’s the perfect mascot for any college team – this big guy says it all, “I will ruthlessly, and without mercy, fight you to your own death…no questions asked…” At this point, it’s fight or flight…

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We all have a little Harry Potter inside of us, no? When faced by the beast, we want to fight back. We’re not looking for it, let alone expecting it. We don’t want to be ripped apart by savage teeth or burned alive by raging fires. We find ourselves dangling in thin air by mere threads, we lose our grasp, we lose our footing, we pray for that one thing that will get us out of this situation, only to be met by occasional  and often transient victories – this is cancer…

It is our natural instinct to survive, regardless of what we face. Our body parts are ripped from us and our bodies ravaged by toxic chemicals. We face death, losing consciousness and hope, praying for the one cure that will prolong our lives. We are graced with occasional and sometimes long-term remissions – this is cancer…

This week I discovered that my niece’s husband has cancer. My niece is the daughter of my sister Maureen. She is the one who found her mother’s body three days before Christmas 2010. Three weeks prior, my niece’s husband had lost his mother as well. They have two little girls and everything to live for…

This cancer – this dragon, this beast – is ruthless. It shows no mercy. It slithers from one being to the next, ripping off limbs and setting fire to souls. But we need to take this lesson from the beast – we will be fierce and we will be aggressive. We will hang on, stand tall and pray and pray and pray. We will embrace whatever victories we are granted. We’re not going down without a fight…

“I fell down, down, down
Into this dark and lonely hole
There was no one there to care about me anymore
And I needed a way to climb and grab a hold of the edge
You were sitting there holding a rope”

Clouds – Zach Sobiech

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDC97j6lfyc

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

The finger bone’s connected to the hand bone…

October 2, 2016 – Erev Rosh Hashanah

Walking back from a friend’s house late Sunday night after a wonderful Rosh Hashanah dinner, two houses from my home I caught my foot on a lip of sidewalk barely an inch high. Before I knew what happened, I was falling and falling hard – the whole time thinking, “Don’t put out your hand Alice! Don’t break your fall with your hand Alice!” I’m not sure where I learned or read this, but I suddenly remembered that one should never use their outstretched hands to break a fall because you will inevitably end up with broken hands.

http://www.wikihow.com/Fall-Safely

In whatever attempt I made to tuck and roll and land on any other body part, my hand wasn’t listening to my inner voice…

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Following a couple of hours of sobbing from the pain (and embarrassment), I managed to fall asleep, only to wake to a very swollen and bruised hand the next morning. So I did what any sensible Doherty Gershuny would do – I sucked it up…it was Rosh Hashanah, after all.

First came the ice pack – it helped numb the pain, but the swelling continued. That’s when the cabbage leaves were started…no, that’s not a typo – it says cabbage leaves. Thanks to my Russian friend (who walked with me the half mile from synagogue to my house, then the mile to her own home and the mile back to mine because I didn’t have any cabbage leaves), my hand was quickly wrapped in cabbage leaves and shoved in a plastic baggie with holes cut out like a mitten for my fingers to poke through. And it actually helped to bring down the swelling!

http://blog.walkjogrun.net/2014/03/21/natural-healing-anti-inflammatory-cabbage-compress/

Thanks to my Russian cabbage leaves, by Wednesday the swelling was minimal…then came the pain again. After two days of sucking-it-up-denial and warnings from my husband, my daughter, my Russian friend and several other friends at synagogue, it took a doctor friend to convince me to go to the local Urgent Care.

Yup, it was fractured (albeit a very small fracture) – my fourth metacarpal. I next found myself at the Orthopedic Urgent Care debating cast versus brace with the doctor and his assistant. Thinking I could talk my way out of a cast so that I could continue riding my bike, I convinced the doctor to give me a brace with the understanding that the fracture might take longer to heal. As he walked me back to the waiting room lobby, I asked him about riding…I should’ve kept my mouth shut…I don’t know why my body parts (particularly my big fat mouth) never listen to that little inner voice in my head…”ABSOLUTELY NO BIKE RIDING!” for at least four weeks?!

“Maybe suing your neighbor for not fixing the sidewalk will make you feel better,” said one friend, followed up by the friend who told me not to bother after explaining in great detail the intricacies of “Sidewalk Law.” It didn’t help, even after my own rant about how the municipality should be responsible for fixing our sidewalks because they’re public domain anyway and who can afford to fix them?! – concrete is very expensive ya know…Besides, I like my neighbors – I wouldn’t want something so minor to effect our relationship.

So how upset am I? VERY…remember, this blog was created to explain why I annoy my all my Facebook friends with hundreds of photos of my bike rides…but then I start thinking about how lucky I am – that it’s just a small fracture and my body can and will heal itself; that my injuries could’ve been far worse – I’ve fallen off my bike and destroyed a lot more than a metacarpal; that my husband and daughter were there to pick me up off the ground; that I have friends who go above and beyond to show how much they care – friends with cabbage leaves and medical knowledge; that my husband has a steady job with excellent health insurance to cover all these medical expenses…

I’ve come to realize that this blog is not necessarily about my cycling and photographs – it’s about loss and how we manage it. Cycling and taking pictures is one way I manage. I share these moments with others in hopes of helping those who are having a difficult time experiencing their own loss – to inspire, support and move forward in positivity. So maybe this Gump Ride can be turned into a Gump Walk for a few weeks…?

“‘Cause when you’re falling
I can’t tell which way is down
And when you’re screaming
Somehow I don’t hear a sound
And when you’re seeing things
Then your feet don’t touch the ground
‘Cause when you’re falling
I can’t tell which way is down”

When You’re Falling – Afro Celt Sound System

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvJYgkBbCbs

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump