By "up & down" I don't refer to the rolling hills we so often ride here in central Alabama. The reference is to the emotional highs and lows that have been coming along, and as I write this continue to do so. It's been just over a week since I last rode, which seems like forever to me. Silly of course, to sit here wondering if i can even make it through the usual Thursday route planned for tonight after work. I skipped the ride last Thursday to lend a hand with Alex's wedding preparations. Sharon had been pulling hardest on the oars and was getting frazzled. Staying home and helping her was the obvious best thing to do. Friday, I took a day off from work and drove to Birmingham to pick up 2 out of town wedding guests, then came back to see what else could be done. Saturday started early. I met the wedding planner and her helper at the reception venue at 6:30 AM and we started to set that place up. I hauled a lot of supplies and materials around, making numerous trips to get and relocate needed items. Wedding pictures started at 2PM and the wedding itself at 5:00. The reception followed, and at 11:00 PM, Sharon and I loaded the last of the stuff to be put away into my car and took it home. Alex and Alisha and some friends had left to continue their celebration in a cozier venue. Somewhere in all that, there was time to jump out and mow the yard too.
Sunday morning, I picked up 3 guests at 6:00 AM to drive them back up to the Birmingham airport. I also collected various tuxedos to return that afternoon back in Montgomery, and I stopped at the state prison for a ministry visit with someone I have been going to see for about a year now. While the focus was on getting everything done that needed doing to make the wedding a happy time for the bride, groom and guests, I was keenly aware of the sense of loss I felt. My little boy was a man now, with his own wife and a little boy (hers) that he took in his heart as his own. My job as a dad had passed a milestone. Now, I am "Poppy," and I recede as a parent, while Alex steps into his new and larger role. It is how the world works, and I have always pointed towards this day, but I am saddened none the less, while at the very same time joyful that my child has found the love of his life and has nothing but potential in front of him.
It was Sunday morning while I was on the road that I received a message from Frank that our good friend Tom Wright passed away at 6:00 AM. Tom thought he had the flu a few weeks earlier and saw a doctor. A few days later he felt much worse and went to the hospital where he was admitted. Originally diagnosed with bilateral viral pneumonia, he seems to have succumbed to acute respiratory distress, cause unknown. Needing an oxygen mask at first to get his blood oxygen levels up, he moved to sedation and a ventilator for, I guess, about 2 weeks before giving up his grip on earthly life. Joe & I saw him about a week after his 1st admittance and he was alert, wearing a mask, and happy to see us. That was the last time I saw Tom. Tom first started riding with us (with his pal John) last winter. He became a regular on our rides (2 or 3 times a week) and progressed as a rider very quickly. The bike bug bit him hard and he loved our time in the saddle. He was a guy you just liked right away. Genuine to the core, and his loss is really affecting me. Here he is in colorful tattoos and jersey, with Frank and Pete at Fat Girl's BBQ:
The visitation is tomorrow evening and I'll be there. There is a memorial service as well on Saturday, but I may ride instead. I had already comitted to a volunteer cycling event in conjunction with the DOT and I know that Tom would say "Go and ride!" if I could ask him.
Tom wasn't the only loss in my sphere of connections last week. A dear little girl who I learned of through a cycling friend passed away from a childhood brain cancer after a batlle of more than a year. i had been praying for her and following her ups and downs through the regular updates her mom left on the Caringbridge web site. In like manner, an acquaintence from our Plant City Fl days also succumbed to cancer. I still get prayer list emails from our former church back there and I followed and prayed for this gal as well.
Work is less fun these days but harder if you don't get there to do it, so I'll sign off for now.