Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Driver

Years ago, the man I began dating had a motorcycle. He grew up in a family of Harley riders - his brothers, father and even his mother drove motorcycles. I did not. I grew up with 4-wheeler's on dusty trails. Dirt bikes that soared over soft hills. Snowmobiles that raced through open fields. We did not do hard pavement and oncoming traffic at 55-miles per hour.

My hesitation and concern was voiced. It was simply not something I did. Not something I had ever done. Not something I was sure I even wanted to experience. Because hopping on a motorcycle means hopping on something that might, quite possibly, hurt you.

There were stories. Newspaper articles and breaking news announcements proving that one could get hurt when riding a motorcycle.

He heard me. Heard my fears.

And brought me a helmet.

He talked to me about how to lean into a curve and how it was dangerous to try to do the opposite.

He explained how hot the pipes were and how to hang on.

He promised to go slow.

And he did.

True to his word, he puttered slowly down the road, me clinging so tight to his waist I'm almost certain he was incapable of taking in a single breath. Slowly we returned to my driveway, the shortest first trip ever known to man complete, his steady hands carefully unbuckling the helmet. Smiling into my still shaking self he said see, I promised I'd be careful with you.

That trust allowed for longer rides. And longer ones still. He always went slower than he probably wanted. Always took turns more conservatively than he probably wanted. Always cautious and aware making sure I felt safe until I was riding confidently on the back of his bike, head tipped to the sun, the warmth and the wind lulling me into a relaxation I'd never experienced before.

This was good.

Everything was good.

Life was good!

And nothing could touch me!

Until that sudden moment when out of nowhere the bike swerved in a way I instantaneously knew it shouldn't and I could feel the wrongness before I could understand what was happening and without thinking I threw my arms out, hands splayed open, trying desperately to stop myself from hitting the ground, willing myself to please be okay, please be okay, please be okay.....

And then it was quiet.

So beautifully, peacefully quiet.

And the sun was still shining and the sky was still blue and the birds were still singing and the grass was bright green and it was still a picture perfect summer day. Except it wasn't. Because picture perfect summer days weren't supposed to include a motorcycle on its side and a girl in a ditch and her boyfriend - where was her boyfriend?

But then he was there. Right there. Eyes wide and wild, are you okay? Bridget! Are you okay? I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Are you okay? I'm so sorry! And I looked up at him stunned and confused and not even sure if I was okay or not but I said I was. Yeah, yeah. I'm okay. I'm okay. 

He looked at my hands. At the blood dripping and the gravel sticking and we both knew it could have been way worse had he not been driving slow and careful. But we didn't say it.

I wanted to walk back. Like a little kid taking a spill on their bicycle, pushing it back home to get a band aid. But I couldn't. We were in the country, in the middle of nowhere. A pothole, perhaps, misjudged. We thought we were doing everything right. Driving careful. Driving slow. Staying on the quiet roads nobody ever traveled. And we still got hurt.

I had to get back on in order to go back home. I didn't want to. I suggested instead that I sit in the ditch while he went back and got his truck. Bridget, he said quietly, apologetic eyes searching mine, I can't let you sit here by yourself. I knew he was right.

I didn't want to know he was right.

I had to get back on.

With bleeding hands I turned toward the very thing that had just hurt me, took a deep breath and hopped back on.

He went slow. Very slow. And steady. Calling out are you okay? and how are you doing? and is this too fast? I can slow down. And I know he would have.

We went to his grandmother's where she cleaned and bandaged my hands and filled me with her amazing food and listened to me as I told her how scared I was and how I was never, ever going to get back on a motorcycle again.

But the funny thing is, I did.

Not right away, but eventually I did.

Because I trusted him. Because I knew he didn't intend to hurt me. Because I knew that when I did hurt, so did he. He had known I was scared to begin with, and yet he had been so gentle, so patient, allowing me trust him in my own time - not pushing or getting frustrated that I was taking too long. And he waited patiently again.

I enjoyed many rides on the back of that motorcycle. Taking in the scenery of countrysides and lakes, hills and highways. But always in the back of my head was the knowledge that this could lead to hurt.

I think, sometimes, that being a mother is like that. Wanting to be that carefree, wind blowing your hair back woman - but knowing this could also lead to hurt.

And sometimes it does.

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, a pothole is misjudged and throws you right off.

But with the right driver - one patient and kind and caring and trustworthy, you choose to get back on again.

People ask me how I do it. How can I function after my child suddenly, without warning, died? How do I face each day ready to ride when I'm still reeling from the greatest fall? Because God is my driver. Because He was there the whole time. Because He picked me up and searched me asking, are you okay Bridget? Come with me. I'll take care of you. And I promise not to go too fast.

And He hasn't.