My Wobbly Bicycle, 143

Posted by on Oct 8, 2017 | 12 comments



I’ve been having adventures. This whole last year with Jerry and his back and his hip have been the main adventure, of course. Actually, yes, it is has been that. I sometimes think, when something happens that feels almost unbelievably hard, “Well, I’m getting to add this to my repertoire.” Not exactly repertoire, but Life Lived. Okay, now this. I’ve had a thought that when every blank is filled in, I’ll be done. But there are so many blanks, so much that hasn’t happened to me yet and can’t, because I am only me. I have an inherited filter that says “me,” and only what fits can pass through. Still, it’s interesting.


download-1Case in point: I backed into a parked car in the dark in Harbor Springs and did considerable damage to both my Prius and the other car. (Not quite as bad as this photo).I had to drive a rented giant Chevy Tahoe to Grand Rapids to the airport, biggest damn car I’ve ever driven. Scary. And then I accidentally double-booked a couple of events in D.C.—well, almost. A blessed friend ferried me quickly from one to the other. Point being, I’m staggering. “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson.


images-1Jerry’s getting better every day. He has almost no pain. He’s using his stretchy-bands to build muscle, which, heaven knows, he needs. Sometimes when things ease up, whatever it is, I look back and think, “What was all the fuss about? We were either going to live through this or we weren’t.” But that doesn’t matter at the time. The fuss is its own kind of richness. It absorbs the moment. Its intensity has a kind of beauty. You wouldn’t catch me saying that at the time, but even then, at some level, I see it.


While I’ve been traveling—to northern and lower Delaware, to northern Michigan, to D.C., so far, and Baltimore on Tuesday—I think, “I’m too old for this.” My brain works slower, I can tell that, and when I have to make instant decisions, or hear fast-talking flight attendants or Uber drivers, I feel a little woozy (okay, my hearing is bad). Most people my age know what I mean, unless they’ve been living like this all along so it feels normal. Jerry’s and my life together is slow and quiet. I have chosen to do this travel, for my new book, but it’s a lot harder than it would have been 10 years and no cancer ago.


download-2Here’s the thing. Writing is what I do. If someone tied my hands behind my back, I’d write with my teeth. I didn’t cause this to happen. It just is. So if I write, I need to do the work of getting my poems and essays into readers’ hands. If I were wildly famous, I could sit in my mountain hut and write and readers would climb the rocky precipice to receive my honeyed words. However, that is unlikely. So as long as I can, I’ll need to be out there in the world, to some extent. I don’t see this as vanity. I see it as my part in a grand communal act of reading and writing. Sometimes I’m on the reading side, sometimes on the writing side.


Adventures are live, but they’re also written. The deeper I read, the more I appreciate the lives I won’t have time to live for myself.




  1. Your bicycle doesn’t seem so wobbly any more.

    • Oh well, Sally, it’s always wobbly, isn’t it? Even if the wobble isn’t the first thing we notice.

  2. “10 years and no cancer ago” sounds like an epigraph for my next poem. You sound so yourself again.

    • Yeah, I have to say, I like the sound of that, too. :)

  3. Dear Fleda
    A heartfelt thank you for this post. I know a little of the suffering you and Jerry have endured so your words help to soften my grief. We lost our dear Xena yesterday. Bill and I have been crying at the hint of a memory or seeing her old toys and bed. We are grief zombies. Aargh. It’s shocking, the level of grief for a beloved pet. So now when it comes I’ll say, “Well I’m getting to add this to my repertoire.” I’ll remember to be grateful for the love and the pain.

    • I am grieving with you for Xena. And hope to see you when I finish this round of trips. Love to you and Bill.

  4. Very good words and phrases.
    Thank you.

    • You are always in my head when I write. (and the rest of the time). See you soon. I’ll be so glad to be home.

  5. Your bio so precisely matches my own as to defy chance. Our geographical touchdowns are uncanny connections–Michigan, Delaware, Nebraska. Even the damaged brother in “God, God,” if bio datum, matches my own family. Etc., etc. Almost spooky.

    • That’s interesting, and yes, spooky. Makes me think of string theory. Thanks for the note!

      • Thanks, Bonnie. I replied to you by email. So glad to hear from you and know that the column mattered to you.

  6. Fleda, Thank you once again for your R-E column, Struggle with Cancer… I burst into tears at the end of the poem, as my cousin’s husband, otherwise healthy and active well into his 80s, is at end-stage cancer after a few years of elite NYC doctoring. She writes that they “are at peace,” and I try to learn from them.
    My sister makes great fun of my suggestion years ago to take a workshop on death and dying (when our wonderfully old, 90s, mom was, well, getting really old). It’s now running gag, both of us unchanged. I read Being Mortal, she closes her eyes and smiles.
    I thank you for sharing what you do. I am so happy you are here and Jerry (whom I met at a reading) are doing well. I learn from you, keeps me afloat.
    I too am writing but am pretty terrible at it. No, not true. I am pretty, just not perfect enough to send my homage to evidence-based medicine and uppity breast cancer activists into the public light. Sigh. I will take courage where I can find it.
    Once again, thank you for what you do and thank you for being.

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