The ground is rumbling in our part of the country. Two days ago there was an earthquake about 65 miles from here. Didn't feel it because at the time I was wrestling children into car seats. But something else is making the ground shudder. This quake is caused by an old friend who is rolling over in his grave, slapping his forehead in frustration and shouting curse words at me, all from six feet under.
Meet Fran. Many years ago we shared adjoining office spaces. Neither of us were especially busy at our respective jobs, he owning a specialty shoe store while I worked in an optical office where the doctor was partially retired. Fran was much older than I, and in fact was slightly older than my father. Nevertheless, we became good friends. We shared life stories, a restroom and most importantly, a refrigerator full of Diet Cola, his one indulgence.
Fran was one of the grounding forces during that unsettled time of my life. He listened to my rantings about kids, the ex, finances and health problems. He provided transportation when I temporarily could not drive. He celebrated when my GPA was good and chastised when it slipped below par. He was one of the few who attended my college graduation. He also never hesitated to give me a solid, fatherly tongue-lashing when I did anything that did not meet his approval, which was often. When I told him about Zeus and our plans to marry he was thrilled. Our friendship lasted many years.
Fran was a biker. Each morning his road bike made a two hour journey from his home to the office. At night it took him home. On Sundays it was a three hour HARD ride. We're talking grueling mountain passes and long, long distances. The pleasure he got out of getting all stinky and sweaty was a mystery to me.
I vividly remember getting to work one day and finding him hunched over in his office, still in his biking clothes, angry and with tears streaming down his face. Then I noticed the crumpled red bike in the corner. "She hit me! Look at my bike!". Totally ignoring the blood that covered his arms and legs, he was devastated about his beloved bike. That night I got phone call. He had been taken to the hospital for some internal injuries that had gone overlooked and spent a few days there recovering. A few weeks later he was back on a new bike.
Peddling those road bikes kept my friend alive for many years past his life expectancy. He had an incurable condition that finally took it's toll about ten years ago. At the funeral his riderless bike was parked next to the casket. Fran is still a legend among seasoned riders here.
In the last ten days I have thought of him often while learning to appreciate the wind in my face and the aching muscles of my gluteus maximus. The patch of road rash that is currently on my elbow is minuscule compared to the large scabs he wore after the three tangles with automobiles. I like to think he would be smiling each time I strap on the helmet and later return home all stinky and sweaty. And I'm sure he is wondering why it took me so long to discover how fun it can be.