On mortality , mobility and riding a bike.
My father died last year after a decade of creeping dementia. In his end he followed his mother right down to dyeing at the same 70 years of age. This weekend in particular I find myself missing him.
Both my father and my grandfather were competitive road cyclists, my grandfather went on to be involved in drug testing , walked with the NZ Commonwealth Team at the opening on the Chch games and has an NZ Cycling Trophy in his honour , although the last mention I can find of that is the suggestion it be dispensed with. With all this family history it is a surprise then that I never learnt to ride a bike.
I almost learnt. Growing up on the hilly city streets of Wellington we used to drive out to see friends in the Wairarapa, and I would try to ride my father running along behind. But without regular practice on the streets of Berhampore it was not to be. 11 years after me my brother came along and he also remained bikeless.
A way in which I did follow my father was to never learn to drive. So I have spent my life using my legs to get around. Now 30 years later I find myself living in a flat village in countryside perfect for cycling.
Living with a family history of dementia informs a lot of my decisions. Having spent my childhood watching my grandmother decline and then my 30’s watching my father take his turn it’s hard not to wonder when my turn will come. Sometimes this ‘carpe diem’ way of living tips too far to hedonism with my love of good food and good alcohol leaving me far heavier than I should be.
So I have splashed out and bought myself an eTrike . It’s been the best decision and I have already been far more active over the Christmas break than I normally would be. But I find myself missing my dad. I wish he was still here to pass on his knowledge of cycles , of gears, I wish he was here to tell me again about cycling the Akatarawas or Paekakariki Hill, I wish he was here to see me cruising down the street with the dog on the back. I wish he was here to marvel at the expensive bits and pieces I already find myself buying for it.
Live for the day, safely and say the things that need saying because no one knows about tomorrow.