Holidays usually help set the mood for the season, and Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off for early summer and all the enthusiasm for outdoor activities. Let's face it, for most Americans, Memorial Day opens the door to the outside and gets things rolling. And so it was this last Memorial Saturday when my biking pals and I headed to our favorite route along the banks of the Rouge River for our first workout of the year.
We were slow getting started with skinny tires needing air, derailleurs begging for oil, helmets needing adjustment, and tools missing or lost. But we did get underway as the sun broke through the early morning clouds and as a light breeze pushed us on. Now it takes a couple miles for rider and bike to get comfortable and in sync. By mile four I was spinning at a decent heart-pumping rate with my friends trailing closely behind. Nearing a bridge across from a golf course, I checked my odometer...17mph. Not bad, not bad at all. As I came over the bridge, I noticed the almost-all blue sky merge into the lush greens of the fairway to my left. I eased off the road onto the paved shoulder still thinking of the unfolding day and then BAM! Lights out! Lights on!
In the bicycle vernacular it's called an "endo" when the rider goes over the handlebars and lands in front of the bike. I remember the loud heavy thud of my helmeted head smacking the pavement. (There are times when I can still hear that sound.) After the initial hit, my body followed and fell forcing my face into a concrete slide and to a skidding stop.
Carefully lifting my head from the ground, I realized three important things: one, I was not dead, yet, and two, the ever-enlarging pizza-size pool of blood was mine, and three, my Spandex cycling shorts were still on. I heard my friends approach and rush to my aid. Soon sirens seemed to be coming from all directions and getting louder, and I thought about...well, I thought about the mess I was in.
I thought about my daughter's high school prom that very night. I thought of my son in from Chicago for the weekend. I thought about my wife getting this news. I thought of my classroom and the end-of-year grades, report cards, and records. I thought of my eighth graders and missing Cedar Point and Graduation with them. Actually, all that thinking took my mind away from what was right in front of me: my road-rasped face.
The EMS crew arrived, examined me, asked some questions, wrapped my head and right hand in gauze and adhesive tape, and strapped me to a neck board for the trip to the hospital. Once there, ER nurses and doctors made plans for the restoration of my face and hand. After an hour's worth of Xrays and CAT scans, the plastic surgeon arrived, introduced himself, and said, "I think I can put everything back where it belongs." Reassuring? I hoped he was right.
After some time in surgery, I awoke in a recovery room and groggily began to inventory my situation. An IV was stuck in my left arm. My nose was thickly taped, but mostly back in the middle of my face. My lip was sutured inside and out and swollen to the size of a fat thumb. I could see bandages on my right hand and feel the stiffness of bandages on or near my forehead, cheek,chin, neck, and eye. Without looking in any mirrors, I knew one thing for certain: I was a sight for sore eyes!
By Memorial Day I was home in my own bed. There was no patriotic parade, no smoky bar-be-cue, no family gathering, no laughter, no joy of spring, just the beginning of a long, tedious recovery.
Now, that holiday weekend has long passed, but memories and scars of that worst of days remain and will, no doubt, surface from time to time. It was, indeed, a memorable day for a Memorial weekend...one I won't easily forget.