Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Cannondale Synapse on the wall in our New Orleans pad.

NO RIDING TODAY. My legs ache in a familiar way. This ache means that I have used my legs in the service of others—children who I will never meet, but who I know are suffering. Kids of fellow parents who have protected their sons and daughters from every tangible, conceivable danger in life. Except this invisible invader called cancer. Kind of hard to protect your kid from discordant cellular activity. Our son Pablo was one of the 175,000 children who were diagnosed with cancer in 2008 on Earth. 174,999 + Pablo = 175,000. Every year on this planet, 175,000 children and their parents, siblings, friends, entire social ecosystems, suffer in an actual way.
Of course, all of the suffering we endured on Pablove Across America 2014 is merely a metaphor for the true suffering of others. Nothing more. I made a choice to suffer my way from Austin to New Orleans. And I will continue making this choice until the day I die. But, first, I gotta take a day off to rest.

Naveen Viswanatha snaps a selfie on the road. That's Bill Begien pointing at the camera.

And I am working hard at this resting stuff. As I lay on the sofa here in New Orleans this morning, David Bowie's 'Hunky Dory' album is playing on the speakers. There's a cup of coffee in my hand, the front door is open, a light breeze is blowing through the house. The air that has combined to make this breeze must have been somewhere near the equator only a day ago. 20 seconds ago, this air must have been flowing over the mighty Mississippi River a few blocks to the west of our front door. And, soon enough, it will be in Baton Rouge, Oklahoma, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee and on and on....

The Pablove peloton flies down Highway 90, one the final stretch into New Orleans.
The riders of PAA rolled through the wide open spaces of east Texas and Southeast Louisiana sheathed in wind. Lots and lots of wind. Gulf wind. Vast columns of air traveling with velocity and purpose. Stuff that used to fill the sails of real life pirates as they aimed their rudders to the lawless docks at Algiers, the riverside New Orleans neighborhood where Jo Ann grew up. After seven days of riding in it, we know at least a little about this stuff: how to survive in it, how to duck our front wheels to the left or to the right or right behind the wheel in front of us to get protection from it, how to thoroughly appreciate the miles that roll by when it's at our backs ramming us down the roads, and how, in the end, we just get through it. Wind is assistance or it's resistance. No matter what, it's temporary stuff. There's nothing permanent about it. It's here, and then it's gone. Just like life.
As Bowie's playful song "Kooks" floats through all that air around me, my memory opens to the countless nights I sung this song to baby Pablo. In the dark, without Mick Ronson's winsome acoustic guitar, devoid of backing vocals, I sang "don't pick fights with the bullies or the cads, because I'm not much cop at punching other people's dads." This song always felt just right to me, even if my singing voice was better suited for being a rock manager than a frontman. The poor kid must have wondered what he'd gotten himself into being born to this Papa. As Pablo got older, he would ask me to play "Life On Mars"—the line "Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow" always revved him up. We figured that Pablo loved "Life On Mars" more than just about any other song he ever heard.

It's so nice to know Jo Ann and I were able to witness our little boy succumb to the thrall of a song. Because like all that Gulf air that just goes and goes and goes through his beloved city of New Orleans, Pablo's life blew by so, so fast. Six years and six days. 2,196 days. You have no idea how little time that is until you are kneeling on grass, talking to your son through a brass tombstone.

The Mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana proclaimed October 23, 2014 PABLOVE DAY.
I had no idea I had no idea how to be a parent. I just followed Jo Ann—the best Mommy I have ever met. I have no idea how to ride a bike. I just follow the wheels of my friends. They keep me going, they keep me laughing, they keep reminding me that helping others is how I honor the memory of Pablo.

Please help me help kids with cancer by donating to my Pablove Across America fundraising goal. 

I think you in advance, and if you've already contributed I THANK YOU for your support.

My best to you and your family today.

-jeff




2 comments:

Heather said...

Just love and light to you and yours Jeff. And your sweet P. Always.

Brendan Murphy said...

Absolutely heart rending stuff - love how you put it so succinctly. Thinking of you guys - you're an inspiration to us all.