In my childhood, I used to come home from school, race through my homework and then my brother and I would mount our bikes and we were off. We would meet other members of “The Gang” and together we got up to all sorts of escapades. In the veld there was a broken sewage pipe and with a lot of digging we built our “Fort”. In a sewage pipe! When I think of it now I shudder.
I remember my bike distinctly. I had painted it this sickly pale pink and I was an “ace” rider! I remember pedalling behind my brother, my hands off the handle bars, my head back, whooping with joy.
I loved my bike.
About nine months after my accident, we were visiting the DeVilliers farm, and Paul, their son, was cavorting around on a bicycle.
“Can I have a ride?” I asked.
“On this?” he asked a trifle stupidly, I thought. The fact that I could barely walk, didn’t seem to cross my mind! “Uh…yeah,” he said, “let’s go on the tennis court. There it will be far smoother.” He moved the bicycle to the court. “Here…I’ll hold it while you mount.” And, much against my will he did just that. He held me steady while I perched way, way up there on the saddle. Shoot, I didn’t remember the saddle being so far from the ground. I looked down. The ground seemed kilometres away! Well, several metres at least.
“Okay, let me go,” I said through gritted teeth. He did and I wobbled precariously, about to come off.
“I’ll just hang on until you get the feel of it,” holding me steady as I pedalled. After a few seconds I yelled: “Now let me go! Let me ride by myself.”
Resigned he did so. I would love to say that I then did several I laps of the tennis court before cruising to a halt. But things didn’t work out quite so smoothly. His hands left the bicycle and so did my balance. The bike went one way and I the other. I didn’t hurt myself because Paul literally caught this tumbling “bicycle-rider”! The only thing that was hurt was my stubborn pride.
I realised that very possibly I had said goodbye to bicycles forever.
My friend, B, hopped on her bicycle and rode over to my apartment. We sat on the couch, drank tea and chatted. B eventually looked at her watch. “It’s getting late, I must go.” She picked up her rucksack and moved the bike back outside. I watched in silence. Then… “Can I have a go? On your bike?”. “Sure. Put on some shorts and I’ll wait outside in the parking area.”
A few minutes later I joined B. I didn’t say anything about my “bicycle-ride” all those years ago. She sensed my tension but remained silent. Gently she maintained a hold till I was on the bike. Then took her hands away. I pedalled…and pedalled….and pedalled! I rode that beautiful bicycle of B’s all the way around our parking area! There were virtually no cars there so I was able to duck and dive around the poles of the various parkings.
I was back on a bike. I was riding!
A week later, B fitted a riding helmet on my head. This was new. I had never ridden with a riding helmet before. Then we wheeled our bikes to the gate.
“Because of your vision, you must ride directly behind me. I will look out and listen for cars and tell you. You must do whatever I say, alright?”
Then giving me a smile, she turned, pushed her bike and was off. With me following. We rode out of B ‘s little neck of the woods and turned onto Plantation Ave. It is a long stretch of a road that goes smoothly uphill. The bike had gears which I discovered made riding uphill a total joy. “Go faster,” I yelled and B duly speeded up. “Okay, we’re going to turn here,” she yelled turning right. We did so and rode on. I couldn’t believe it! It felt so right. So…spot on! A few moments later, B shouted: “A car’s coming!” The warning was unnecessary because I had heard the approaching motor before B. Wonderful things these Cochlear Implants! After about half an hour I yelled: “Can we stop? I need a break.” We coasted to a shady bit of lawn. B opened her rucksack, drew out a blanket which we sat on and then joy of all joys – two bottles of water. I sat there, my face red and glowing, let the water trickle down my throat and thought: Thankyou, God for creating bikes. Thankyou for creating B. Thankyou, dear Lord, for simply allowing me to be alive.
After a long rest we re-mounted our bikes and set off for home. It was downhill the entire way. I find it impossible to describe the bliss and elation of that ride home. At one point I called out: “Shall I see if I can still ride without hands?” B came very close to toppling off. “Relax, Angel, I’m joking!” I laughed back.
I stood there while B took off her helmet and said: “There are times in one’s life where one experiences a tumbling of joy inside. Today, riding the bike, was one such moment. Thankyou, my Friend!”
That experience was more than merely breathtaking. It was awe-inspiring, astounding, overwhelming and at the same time a humbling event. It made me realise how lucky I am.
It also made me wonder if my balance will be improved by my second Cochlear Implant?
Balance. Life is all a question of balance.
Smile – I love living!