Posted: October 17, 2012
I love bicycle riding. The Chicago area is my favorite locale in the U.S. because the terrain is flat and the seasons are genuine. My most exciting summer was spent cycling through Germany. The terrain is certainly not flat. Karl Wiesbach taught me the word ‘shieben‘. There was no stigma in getting off the bike and pushing it up a steep climb. Growing up in North Carolina, a guy never got off and pushed. Stand up and pedal, you sissy.
Shieben was especially welcome in southern Germany. The downhill ride made it all worthwhile. Up and down. Up and down. I pushed the bike up the road to Neuschwanstein Castle, stopped outside and rode through the gate into the courtyard. There was no one there. At least, no one I could see.
The German train system makes it easy for a cyclist. In those days, you’d buy a bicycle ticket for one mark, take your bike to the baggage car, go find a compartment, sleep for a couple hundred miles, get your bike and find a place to stay. The Eurailpass was $100 bucks for the summer and you could go anywhere in Europe first class. My Michelin Guide was all I needed to decide where to go next.
There is no Michelin Guide for my current trip with Barbara. When the new day comes, I have no idea whether she’ll be up or down. If she’s up, our time will be spent landscaping the yard, going for a neighborhood bike ride, grocery shopping and reading. We’ll watch some TV. Life seems normal and I can forget that her Alzheimer’s is lurking. If this is a down-day, I’m usually caught off guard when the madness starts. Maybe zooming downhill on the bike was fun, but this incline is pure terror.
On these down-days, I see only the ghost of my sweet Barbara. On these down-days, her memory span is zero seconds. On these down-days, her energy is very high and her activity is erratic. She takes on a lot of tasks and all are left unfinished. She wants us to talk, but quickly the sentences turn to nonsense. Because I love conversations, I fall for it everytime. Before long I lose my patience and, of course, she has no idea why I’m upset. Of course not — she has Alzheimer’s Disease, you doofus.
When I rode into the courtyard at Neuschwanstein and saw no one was there, I parked my bike, walked out into the middle and howled at the top of my lungs. A long, exhilirating howl of pure excitement. It felt just great. In this adventure with Barbara, sometimes I feel the urge to howl. I don’t do it. I’m afraid if I start, I won’t be able to stop.
There’s no Michelin Guide for my current trip with Barbara. There’s only shieben. –lg