It was five days before my 41st birthday when we found out that Sherod had cancer. I got home from work on my birthday to find a shiny green bicycle waiting for me. Sherod’s comment was, “if I am going to be this scared, you are too”. I knew immediately what he meant. I grew up hearing a lot more about what I couldn’t do than most people. “Rosita, don’t do that, it’s bad for your hip.” “That is simply too dangerous.” “Surely, you don’t want to jeopardize your chance to have children, do you?” Some of it got absurd. I was clumsier than most kids because I had not had as much of a chance to develop all kinds of motor skills, and that got turned into a conviction that I would probably never be capable of learning how to drive a car. I had to sneak around my parents to take driving classes one summer when I was in college. Even now, I can’t think about that too much without getting very angry.
The combination of projected fears and my own clumsiness meant I had never learned to ride a bicycle. And now, here sat this rather lovely bicycle in my house. I have wondered since if part of Sherod’s decision to give me that birthday present wasn’t a small but definite push towards self-sufficiency, pushing me to push myself a little harder in case he didn’t make it. I was terrified as I started learning and being terrified of riding a bike distracted me from the far greater fears in front of me. Once I got good at it, my friend Carol and I went for bike rides at night frequently and that too got me through that time. I have a nice Trek bicycle at home now, one I ride occasionally, and am always glad to know isin my garage.
This morning, Hans and I rode bikes over to the small grocery shop in Linanäs Very quickly after we got started I realized what a limited experience of bike riding I actually have–all of it in the ever so flat world of Southeast Florida. Ljusterö is quite hilly and almost immediately after we got started, my legs were madly churning and I was huffing and puffing my way up a slope. Pitiful! But then, we hit a long stretch that was downhill all the way. Absolutely amazing!!! The feel of the breeze on my face as the bike picked up speed, the sense of freedom that came with the pull of gravity. My legs still feel a little rubbery and I imagine it will take my whole time here to get any mastery of the hills. Another small gift of discovery on another gorgeous Swedish summer day.