I’m typing this with Band-Aids on my right hand: one on my right thumb, and the other on my right index finger. They’re the cloth-type Band-Aids, flexible and persistent, but collect every speck of dirt that meanders by. After a few hours my hand feels like I’m wearing bulky cotton work gloves. It’s a clumsy and awkward setup, and I don’t recommend it. The inconvenience soon surpasses any pain from the original injury, and I am tempted to pull them off and try typing without them. It’s only my years as a grown-up, which have taught me that healing takes time whether or not I’m patient, that insists I leave the Band-Aids in place.
And it’s those years as a grown-up that I’ve pondered today.
A couple of evenings ago Cyndi and I joined the local bike club (Permian Basin Bicycle Association) for their Urban Mountain Bike Ride. We don’t get to ride together very often, so this felt like a date. Instead of buying flowers, though, I bought Cyndi a front and back light for her bike. It was a great start.
After we arrived at the Midland College Chap Center parking lot, I unloaded and reassembled the bikes and pedaled around a bit on each one to make sure everything worked. While I was riding my own bike and adjusting my helmet mirror, not paying attention to where I was going since it’s a huge parking lot and what could possible happen, I ran into one of those bright yellow curb bumpers. I didn’t know I’d collided with the bumper until I hit the asphalt.
Fortunately for me I was moving very slowly, so my crash didn’t produce any road rash. However, I ended up with a cut in my thumb and finger, a knot on my right thigh, and a strangeness on my left hip.
I could tell right away these were only superficial wounds and wouldn’t interfere with the fun of the evening. After shooing away all the potential first-aiders, I checked to make sure my bike wasn’t damaged. Both wheels and brakes worked. I was ready to go.
As far as bike crashes go, this was mostly benign. Two Band-Aids and two days of sore quads and I should be fine. Not like my 2013 crash which left me with a watermelon-sized butt and hip and weekly visits to Wound Management for the entire summer. This time it was inconvenience rather than real injury.
The morning after crashing I told my story to a surprisingly-unsympathetic friend who asked, “Aren’t you too old to be hitting the pavement?”
My only correct answer was, “Yes, I am.”
What I didn’t tell my friend, who is someone who would never hit the pavement because they never do anything except sit on the couch and watch TV, was that there is risk with not doing Urban Mountain Bike Rides. The risk of obesity is the most obvious, but more important are the loss of adventure and heart and soul.
In his one-man Broadway show, Bruce Springsteen said, “The one thing I miss in getting older is the beauty of the blank page – so much of life in front of you, its promise, its possibility, its mysteries, its adventures – that blank page just lying there daring you to write on it.” It is a common complaint. Jennifer Trafton wrote that “reaching middle age felt like walls closing in – like the garbage compactor in the first Star Wars movie … life feels scrunched … I yearn for the space to let my heart and imagination stretch out again.”
When I turned fifty, I told people it was a relief. Instead of feeling old, I felt released from the pressure of being cool, of wearing stylish clothes, of knowing the current pop songs or TV shows. I could move straight into curmudgeon. It was grand.
And then when I turned sixty, it felt even better. It felt liberating. It felt like I got a new stack of blank pages ready to fill with promises, possibilities, mysteries, and adventures. It felt like the trash compactor walls were receding and I had a new chance at life. Old things passed away; new things were coming.
Unfortunately, my current blank page includes a bruised thigh and two bandages on my hand. My friend was correct: I’m too old to be hitting the pavement. While I hope to have many years of risk and adventure ahead, I’m old enough and smart enough to look where I’m going and wait to adjust my helmet mirror until I stop moving. Each adventure – each blank page – requires wisdom and responsibility.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32