Pablo and I broke off from the family after breakfast. Jo Ann's parents are here, and they all took Grady to get school shoes (wow, I just said that) and run other errands. Pablo and I had a different plan: drive west on Mulholland Drive starting in Cahuenga Pass. I wanted to show Pablo the route that I rode to the ocean yesterday, and end up at the bike races in Brentwood. Things didn't go as planned (which is sort of becoming the norm these days). I turned down Coldwater Canyon when Pablo said his head was hurting. 'Get home immediately' was the thought in my head. Halfway down the mountain, he said his stomach was hurting. 'Are you car sick?' I asked. 'Yes, Papa. I am.'
Car sick was a relief to hear. That I could deal with. A mysterious headache 18 hours before surgery...not so good. As we slid into the stoplight at Ventura Boulevard, I offered up In N Out Burger for lunch. 'YES!' was the vote from the back seat. With the promise of a cheeseburger, the head and the tummy were repaired. Ain't that America?
Fast forward to 7 p.m. We are all home. Grady and Pablo are taking a bath together. They are going to sleep in Grady's bed tonight. It's the last night of summer vacation. For parents, this is usually a good day–you know, back to having eight hours of kid-freedom, the promise of autumn's arrival around the corner, etc etc. It's usually a good for other reasons too. Another school year, another new pant and shoe size for junior, another notch in the parental belt. All good stuff. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that something is bothering me today.
It's hard to put my hand on exactly what it is. It has a lot to do with hope. Yes, that same word that Obama's being asked to more clearly define in today's papers. Over the past 93 days, I have been constantly trying to define and redefine that word. I am full of hope. But my hope has turned to steel. It doesn't feel as warm and malleable as it did at the beginning. Everyone talks about the stages of grieving. How does hope stage itself? I don't know. I am living it, but I am not present enough to chart it out. And I don't have the energy to like, look it up. All I know is that I feel raw and scared and last night I couldn't sleep again. Dreams of crashing my bike woke me a dozen times. Dreams that were saying 'Aren't you scared you'll crash on that curve?' Over and over I'd dream of the same curve or the same descent. At dinner tonight, I noticed my teeth were grinding as I chewed my food.
Teeth grinding. Mind grinding. Everyone around me is smiling and laughing, so I know I'm OK. I know we're OK. Grady and Pablo are OK. Jo Ann's amazing, loving, present parents, Harry and Patricia, are OK. At dinner, Jo Ann and I told stories from the old school. True tales about trouble we used to get into when we were Grady's age. Pablo laughed heartily at each story. Me cutting through people's yards back in Milwaukee. Jo Ann sliding down the levee on flattened cardboard boxes in New Orleans. Hope showed itself tonight through our easy laughter and the light in the kids' eyes. Nobody at the table knew it, but the good cheer melted my heart just enough to feel again. This post is evidence of it.
Hope–more like: anger+rage+physicality=hope–showed itself yesterday on the bike. My friends and I were 72 miles into our ride, climbing our way back to Hollywood, trudging eastward over the many hills on Mulholland Drive. I could feel my energy was depleted. We were all low, and the sun was scorching us. Suddenly, on a small downhill, I got a burst of energy. I wanting to destroy myself on the ride, so I took one last shot at it. Often, when we're going all out, my dear friend and cycling mentor Hrach screams in his thick Armenian accent 'Nothing left! Nothing left!' Hrach's voice was in my head as I hammered my pedals like the pistons of a V-8 engine on the ruddy, hot asphalt. When I let up, I had nothing left. Every inch of my body was on fire. My eye lids were pulsating. Everything heavy, gnarly, bad and sad was left on the road. When my friends caught up with me, I soft-pedalled all the way home. It felt good. It felt bad. It felt insane. It felt enthralling. It felt real. Just like our lives these days.
We are due at the hospital at 7 a.m. tomorrow. We don't know the exact time Pablo will go into surgery. We'll post info here as we get it. Please send your light and your love tonight. That way it'll be here in the morning, ready to carry Pablo to the first day of the rest of his life.
And don't forget about his big brother Grady. At 8:30 a.m., he will walk onto the campus of St. Francis High School. A freshman. With 30 pounds of books. In a uniform. And MY MAN St. Francis of Asisi (seriously, I love that dude–he's my favorite) rocking his world.