MHT Days 33, 34 & 35: Family Matters
I left brother Jon’s house early this morning to avoid riding in some of the worst heat of this trip. It didn’t work. For most of the afternoon, temperatures hovered around the century mark, and several times today I saw readings of 102° with a heat index of 120°. I almost think I’d rather ride in the rain.
The three days spent at Jon’s were good but bittersweet. Ulla was diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half ago and has fought the disease courageously since then. But she and Jon knew when the diagnosis was made that her time was limited. Although she is still smiling, laughing, and active, even to the point of driving her car and enjoying her favorite pastime at a local casino, she is often fatigued and in the care of hospice professionals who visit her at home, monitor her condition and do what they can to make her as comfortable as possible.
Her best friend from her childhood in Germany, Petra, was visiting while I was there, as was her brother Axel. Unfortunately, Axel suffered a heart condition a few days ago and was recovering in the hospital in Andover (near Wichita), adding stress to Ulla’s life at a time when she needed it least. He will stay until his scheduled return September 2 and then look for cardiac care in Germany. Despite all the health issues, everyone’s attitude was upbeat, and the days I spent there were as normal as possible under the circumstances. Ulla, Petra, Axel and Janice (Ulla and Jon’s daughter), had most of their conversations in German, and I sat there pretending to know what they were saying and laughing about, adding my “Ja” and nodding my head. They all speak English too, but it was interesting being the foreigner for a while.
Jon was doing repair work on his garage siding and I helped with that. The work only took a couple hours a day to finish up, but, even when we started working before 8 a.m., in only a few hours we were drenched with sweat. Still, we got all the siding up, and all that remains for Jon to finish is replacing the trim and doing some caulking. And then he’ll be off to another building or yard project, which he enjoys despite the fact that, as with me, such work seems to get harder each year.
When I left this morning I hugged Ulla, told her we loved her and said my final goodbye. She is a great addition to our family and we will miss her.
As I passed through Arkansas on my way home today, I stopped for lunch with Mike and Dianne at Hugo’s, a Fayetteville hangout popular with Razorbacks. They were our best friends from our Tullahoma days, and Mike and Hilary and I spent many hours chasing little white balls on local golf courses. We only had an hour together, but once again it was fun to reminisce and remember good times past and to be updated on their grandparenting lives today.
These motorcycle trips, which always involve long distance riding to new and interesting places, also involve visits with dear friends and family. More and more I find these trips give me time to think about the past and the future, to consider what’s important in life, to say things I should have said but hadn’t or to repeat things that weren’t said often enough. The too-short time spent with friends and family make these trips more than just motorcycle adventures; it makes them a vital part of my life.
Tomorrow will be my penultimate day on the road for this trip. Another day riding in the heat with perhaps some afternoon thundershowers thrown in just for fun. There probably won’t be much worth writing about tomorrow, but when I return to Maggie Valley in two days I’ll add a summary post to wrap up this year’s Magical History Tour blog.