Three years ago this morning, the phone rang just after 4 am, and I knew it was the call we'd been waiting for. The one telling us Mom had slipped away, leaving this world for the next. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed, talking with my sister and being sad but at the same time feeling some solace in knowing Mom was no longer suffering. I still get sad at times when I think about her, the sadness more over how her body became her enemy during the last 20 or so years of her life. I hope my body and I don't ever become enemies, and it is because of this hope that I decided how I was going to spend my day today, in memory of her.
Initially I thought about getting a sky lantern and writing a message on it to send up to the heavens. Then I thought about getting a floating lantern to send out onto the lake. Each of those ideas, though, just weren't dazzling me, even when I had both in the cart and was ready to hit the Buy button. Since the dazzle factor was nonexistent, I deleted the contents of the cart and closed the computer. Right up until this morning, I had no idea what I wanted to do in Mom's memory today.
Then, around noon, I knew. After a morning of sleeping in, having breakfast while engaging in a rousing discussion about a NYTimes article with Hubby and Angel Baby, followed by a walk with the dogs, the urge to ride up to the lake filled me. I didn't even check the temperature or wind direction. I just pulled on my winter weather riding clothes, grabbed my Garmin along with my phone and a bottle of water, then went to the shop to bring Sweetness down from where she was hanging in the rafters. Ado helped me air up my tires and even gave me a send-off as I rolled out of the driveway and headed out.
I took my time. I wanted to just think, to just remember Mom during the better days. The better days included horses. When I was a kid, she shared her love of horses with me. I started riding when I was four or five, first a little black pony named Pony Boy. Then came Midnight, Lady, Copper, Willy, Dream, and Nikki. Each pony, each horse, played a large role in my growing up.
The better days also included books, another love my mom shared with me. I read voraciously. Especially books about horses. Billy and Blaze and everything else by C. W. Anderson, Misty of Chincoteague and everything else by Marguerite Henry, and The Black Stallion and everything else by Walter Farley came first. When I was a teenager, I found Dick Francis. I couldn't get enough of the mysteries he created involving the horse racing world.
As I rolled along under an overcast sky, it occurred to me that horses and books made for a fun and adventurous childhood.
I reached the lake in pretty good time since the wind was at my back. I knew the return home, though, wasn't going to be as enjoyable since I would be heading directly into the wind. A brisk, chilly wind that would finally seep past my shoe covers around mile 23 and numb my toes.
Before that happened, though, I spent some time at the edge of the lake. Several large flocks of geese stood on the ice, some huddled together, some alone. The quiet was interrupted every now and then by the squabbling of a few near the opposite shoreline. And I thought about a picture of Mom, of her standing in a boat after she and Dad had spent the day fishing. She had her hands on her hips and a smile on her face that said she'd had a great time. That was one of those better days.
Before I started home, I took out a package of sunflower seeds. I poured some into the palm of my hand then threw them into the air. Most will likely become food for the birds or rodents, but who knows. Maybe one will have found a hiding place. Maybe that one will take root. Grow. Bloom.
The ride back took longer since I had to battle the wind. I could feel the fatigue setting in around mile 16, which didn't surprise me since I haven't ridden any mileage to speak of since October. It was at this point that a bird, a small hawk, stayed with me for a stretch. Flying alongside then landing on a utility pole then flying ahead then landing again. I watched as it veered off to go up into a tree, and I continued on alone. Or so I thought. I'm not sure why I looked over my right shoulder, but I did. There, running just behind my rear wheel was a beautiful black Lab. It never barked. It didn't go after my tire or my legs. It seemed very happy to merely run with me for about a quarter of a mile. The only house it could have come from I'd never seen a dog at before, not even when I passed by on the way up to the lake.
When I arrived home, I thanked my body for being strong. I knew I asked a lot of it today--29 miles in 37 degrees with 14 mph winds--and it came through for me, giving me the opportunity to think about Mom and some of the things she loved by doing what I love--rolling along on Sweetness.