Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back On The Bike

Pablo on his new BMX bike. He looks like a GIANT on that thing!

Last night, Pablo and Grady built an insane fort in the play room—a small world to call their own. They slept in it, using two giant Mag Lights to illuminate the inside. They had a lot of fun. It's amazing to see their energy mesh—Pablo reaching up and out to be like his big bro. His voice toughens and his speech gets punchy when he's in sync with Grady. On the other hand, when he's playing with his little bro, Grady pulls out his old skool Waldorf sweetness, playing board and card games, building forts, playing hide 'n seek. If we were ever worried about the disparity in their ages (we weren't), the way they were playing Friday and today was proof that it ain't a thang....

I decided to skip my usual Saturday ride today. It's hard to admit, but I needed the sleep, the blank schedule, the day with no commitments. It was nice to wake up with Jo Ann and the boys and chill. After Jo Ann's pancake breakfast, Pablo and I decided to go for a bike ride at Griffith Park. Today was his first bike ride since Mother's Day. In fact, it's the first time we've even touched the topic. After a quick seat height adjustment, Pablo's new Specialized BMX bike—a gift from Hrach and Nevrik at Velo Pasadena—was ready for its maiden voyage. The setting for our ride was our secret road behind the Los Angeles Zoo. It's closed to traffic, so it's a worry- free place for us to ride together.

By the time we finished fitting him on the bike, and loading everything into the car, I could feel Pablo's energy diminish. Pre-cancer Pablo would have been jumping on me as I pumped his tires. I wasn't expecting that. But by the time I was ready to strap him into his seat, he was listless and quiet. We discussed the option of going back inside, and riding later or Sunday. He said he was fine, and wanted to carry on. Inside, I was hurting. I am so sick of hurting that I am starting to push it down. In only a single way, that's an important thing right now. Especially around Pablo. I wanted to have this experience with Pablo, and I wasn't going to let anything—save him wanting to go home—stop us.

On the way to the park, we stopped at Starbucks. He wanted a hot cocoa. It was cool outside (this will sound terrible to our friends in four-season climates: it was 70 degrees today) so I wanted to warm his insides. By the fifth month of cancer treatment, we are all used to Pablo wearing a mask when he's in public. His white blood cell count is so low at the moment that he has to wear a mask any time he steps outside the house. Pablo wore a pre-decorated mask, and I wore a plain one. He didn't want to talk about it when I asked how he felt about wearing a mask. After five months, we all think he's over the fuss. I was asking him so I'd know, for me, whether he was comfortable walking into Starbucks wearing it. He said he was.

I have to admit, I felt self-conscious walking into our local Starbucks with green and white striped masks covering our faces. And despite Pablo's claim that he was OK with it, I think he wasn't too into wearing the mask at all, anywhere. He is at an age where he is old enough to communicate subjective thoughts, and also old enough to keep them inside. And I think that is what was going on today. I could feel him hiding. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it except hold him in my arms.

Should I have avoided going into the coffee shop? Should I have kept him at home for the 125th day in a row? He's bored out of his mind sitting at home. Every game, every book, every TV show is just another hour passing by. He's done all that stuff, and the thrill is gone. So, I know that getting P outta the house had major benefits. Like anything in our lives right now, there are hang-ups, hold backs, risks. I will end this topic by saying, I'd rather have Pablo scared and retreating inward AND in my arms. That is breaking the generational pattern right there.

We ordered our drinks, and went to the bathroom to wash our hands. He drank his cocoa in the car. I drank my espresso in the car. We drove for two minutes down Riverside Drive, and entered the park. Along the way, I pointed at our favorite places, places he's been going since birth: the pony rides, the Merry-go-round, the Zoo. He didn't remember any of them. I gestured toward the Zoo, asking if he knew what it was. 'The museum?' he asked, staring blankly out the window.

If my heart hadn't already been breaking for the prior half hour, it would have smashed to bits right there. This is shaping up to be the Year That Wasn't. It's like, so many aspects of Pablo's life are on hold, and this cancer treatment stuff has inserted itself into the space vacated by everything we were supposed to be doing. P forgetting the Zoo is a very easy example of this. Anyone can understand why it's heart wrenching to see P forget one of his favorite places on Earth, a place he's been to dozens of times. We are not delusional. We know that this is all part of the journey.

With my heart open and raw, and Pablo's protecting itself, we got on our bikes, pushed our pedals and turned our cranks for the first time five months. I couldn't contain my excitement—screaming, cheering him on, telling him how happy I was to see him on his bike. He seemed happy to hear it. But not has happy as he was five months ago. After a few good runs on our secret road, we stopped at the car so P could snack on the nine jellybeans we'd packed as a treat. He gulped some water. We put our helmets back on, and shot down the parking lot (there were no cars in the area where we were riding). Halfway to our target turning point, Pablo slowed his pedal stroke, and said he was too tired to keep going.

We turned right around and went back to the car. By the time we rolled out of the parking lot, he was asleep.


Dawn: said...

You're all in my heart today.

Anonymous said...

I know that feeling too well. Stay strong because it WILL get better.

MKPatrick said...

Dear Jeff,

The detail and beauty with which you write places me right there with you and P. As my eyes well up with tears, I open my heart to you and your glorious family. You are all so fortunate to have each other.
Keep strong. Brighter days are ahead.

Love & Light,
Mary Kay