By Christopher Cudworth
Yesterday afternoon I arrived home to a quiet house because my dog was on a visit to the neighbor across the street. She watches him on occasion because she does not like to think of him being alone in the house.
That’s sweet, but I know that he’s fine most days being alone. When I work out of the house all day he pretty much sits on the couch uttering an occasional bark at a dog or person walking down the street. He also hates the mailman. So he barks like an insane canid when that time of day comes around.
So I’m grateful for my neighbor’s sentiment. But dogs are used to spending periods of time alone if they don’t have a partner pet in the house. My companion’s dog and cat used to mess with each other on occasion, which was hilarious. The dog would snuff and drop to his haunches, stoking the cat into that arched back pose. Then they’d box and chase and that would be that. Just a little fun.
It’s like that with siblings growing up. We leave each other alone for the most part. Yet there are days when teasing or worse, a full-on fight breaks out. It’s how we test ourselves.
It strikes me that running and riding is a lot like sibling rivalries. You have these friends and training partners who come in and out of your life on an occasional basis. You trust them to test you, and they welcome your tests. Then we all go back to what we were doing in between opportunities to run and ride.
I have always been grateful for those relationships, and for the ability to pretty much go out and run and ride when I like. Injuries have been few, but the last two have been doozies. Crashing my bike in 2012 cost me a busted collarbone. Then last fall it was an infection from a sliver that nearly cost me a finger. Those incidents cost me weeks of running and riding.
When you’re in that circumstance you really begin to appreciate your running and riding. You miss it. You grieve it even. Your friends and training partners talk about their runs and rides and you can only sit and smile.
Which is why yesterday and the quiet house turned into a bit of a scary place when I slipped on a section of hardwood floor in my fleece socks and wound up flat on the ground.
I’d been peeling off layers of cycling gear after a 25 mile ride. My riding partner and I had stopped at Claddagh Pub for an Irish BLT and a couple Smythycks. Just a little St. Patrick’s Day fun.
So I don’t think the beers were responsible for the slip and the fall. I was walking back to the shower when I fell. It happened because my feet kept going from the slippery socks. I crashed to my side and my back instantly spasmed. “Oh no,” I thought. “Here we go again.”
I could feel the impact all the way across my shoulders. Nothing was broken fortunately, but it hurt. So I sat soaking in the warm spray of the shower and that loosened up the muscles.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the freak nature of the last two accidents I’d have, the bike wobble incident and the infected finger, and how much they’d cost in terms of medical bills, time away from training and overall inconvenience.
Then I stopped such ruminations. There are people in the world whose bodies have never allowed them to enjoy the freedoms I know so well. They function with profound disabilities or wrestle with lost physical or mental capabilities. They’re lives are seemingly so much harder.
One longtime acquaintance was a 6’6″ basketball star who is now paralyzed from the waist down. Yet he leads a more than fruitful life and drives his own modified van.
Another friend has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has been living with deteriorating functional capacities for years. Yet he harbors little regret. He and his wife make the most of life, and they continue enjoying landmark events including the birth of a new granddaughter this past year.
We all know life can change quickly. All it takes is a car accident or a fall in the hallway on a slippery floor to change everything. We do our best to be attentive knowing that fate is a fickle thing. But accidents happen. One of the tarsnakes of participation in sports is that you risk your physical and mental health while you try to improve it. That is the irony of what we do.
It’s hard not to think back on all the bumps and falls in sports. From the line drive that shattered my smile at the age of 14 to the torn ACL on the indoor soccer field in my 40s, there have been life-changing events.
We carry around these wounds in some form or another. The fake teeth in my smile is a direct result of that line drive 40 years ago. For a while my ACL was replaced by a cadaver part that I called “Jake” until it tore again. Jake died twice.
So I’m thankful to be moving as well as I can. So should you. Give thanks for what you can do, and be respectful of those who are forced to make do. We have far more in common than you might think.