My Grief Hits the Road

By Arleen Read

You can’t walk away from grief. Nor, it turns out, can you drive or bike away from it. If it is yours, it shadows you. Mine lies quietly alongside me for long stretches of time while I enjoy the moment of summiting a mountain pass or riding by a gentle sunny meadow or a sparkling river, or as I thrill in the rewards of a fast downhill run, or as I join the company and laughter of our loving friends. Then it either creeps in to my quiet times or it lurches out and jumps unbidden onto my back for part of the ride.

Like the other day, when our group was joined by Denise and Kobe, a mom and her 14 year old son cycling from Anacortes WA to Bar Harbor ME. They wanted cycling company for a day or two and we enjoyed having them and their stories along. I particularly found a comforting familiarity having a teenaged boy among us. (This is after all, for Clif and me, the first road trip in a very long time without a kid). 

I was riding behind Kobe for a long stretch in the mountains out of Colville toward Skookum Creek. We were battling some headwinds, and at one point I asked him if he needed a break from being in front. All he said was “Nah, I’m good.” Those three words brought first a little burst of joy, as they were uttered exactly as Charlie would have said them, in exactly that sort of assertion of strength and stamina. “Nah, I’m good.” It was as if my boy spoke to me again. Then a split second later those words had summoned the grief, which leapt right on board, and there I was, cycling with my heart bursting from my chest and tears streaming down my face. 

Mind you, I’m not complaining about the grief and how it joins me from time to time. It’s like Charlie is tugging on my jersey sleeve and reminding me that this journey is about more than covering miles. These days of biking 35-50+ miles a day, climbing mountain passes, then getting up and doing it again the next day—these are hard for me. I channel Charlie as I bike—he and his spirit of perseverance are the wind at my back. And I talk to him as I cover the miles--one hill at a time, right Charlie? I’m getting stronger every day, Buddy.