Wednesday, July 28, 2010
My parents' tour wrapped up Friday. They finished the Michigander, one week and about 275 miles of riding in the hills of northern Michigan. They do have some hills up there. My folks made every mile, every foot of elevation, under their own power. In my mind, they, too, can wear Charteau's polka-dot jersey. Also the yellow jersey for the overall winner and the green points jersey. The only one that's open to question is the white jersey, the one awarded to the best young rider. My mom and dad are 73 and 74 years old, not that it matters. It doesn't matter to them.
Actually, it does matter to them in a way. It was when my mom hit 70 that she decided to make it an exciting decade. She promised herself to do one thing every year that she hadn't done before, and if it was something no one expected a 70-something lady with high blood pressure and porous bones to do, so much the better. It began when she went to Battle Creek to watch her son and daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter racing the Shermanator triathlon. Turned out there was an option to just enter the 5K run/walk portion, and she did, on the spot, pushing her 2-year-old twin grandkids over the mostly gravel, hilly course while the triathletes showered her with compliments, back pats, fist pumps and no small amount of second-hand sweat.
The next year she went parasailing over Mackinac Island on the same trip we all celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Last year, she knocked off Lansing's Hawk Island Tri sprint triathlon (400 meter swim, 16K bike, 5K run), finishing dead last and winning her age group. This year was the Michigander. She had to push her bike up a few hills, but so did a lot of people. My dad tootled up every one of them - he's got the build and endurance of an oceangoing albatross - right alongside her. Several times he offered to ride off and get the car or hail the broom wagon, the support vehicle for riders with mechanical or exhaustion issues, but Mom would have none of that, which I think Dad knew full well. He also knows that it's impressive enough to succeed when you have no choice, but that it's exquisitely satisfying to look back and know you've persevered when you had the opportunity to bail. I'm sure Mom enjoyed that when she looked back, which she probably did for about 10 minutes before she focused forward again. I wonder what she's pondering for next year.
I'll ask her this weekend. I'll see them Saturday when I go to Big Rapids for my high school class's 30-year reunion. That really isn't my thing - I, too, find the future more interesting than the past. But I'm not embarrassed by my past, and I've got an interesting career and some cool adventures to throw in there if the conversation lags. But it won't lag, because everyone will be talking about my parents. I'm just more of the same. Or so I can hope.
Posted by Jef Mallett at 11:21 AM