Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What happened: Cold comfort for a bad dad

Fortunately, I'm a bad dad and husband, so Barky was at least comfortable when he died. The first question everyone asks, including us, is What happened?

I've only had the energy to explain to a few people. I'll lay it all out here so I can point anyone over here who's curious. I don't mean to be rude, it's just not a fun story to tell. There are no real tears until the bitter end, but there are no punch lines at all, and recounting the anxiety makes me anxious all over again. Even telling it over ice cream to Steve and Larry tonight choked me up.

You know it's bad when ice cream doesn't help.

So, Friday night I don't recall what got into me, but I got into it first with 3B and then with Mama. Maybe work was stressing me out--when isn't it these days, what with layoffs, firings, reorgs and moves? Maybe I was tired from getting back to bike commuting. I was definitely stressed out by Barky, who was not doing well through the week.

After I had written that post, he had thrown up a full meal on the couch, but then he'd also been to the vet on Friday afternoon, where he showed some signs of improvement--propping his feet up on their counter as usual for treats, even if he didn't wing around as he typically did in the waiting room. He got some drugs for what we assumed was an ulcer and for the trots and came home and ate some of the bland diet food they gave him.

It's a cold comfort but some comfort nonetheless to know that at least his last meal was canned food.

By the time I got home, Barky was in his usual perch on the couch, curled up, observing and napping. We were all tired, and I originally planned to go to bed early with Mama, but instead managed to pick a fight with 3B at bedtime over who knows what. That put me in a sour mood so I ended up picking another fight with Mama over nothing as well. At that point, she retreated to the bedroom to read and fall asleep. I stayed out on the couch with Barky to surf the innernets and watch bad TV. I took him out to pee at 10 or so, and he moved slowly, but not exceptionally slowly, given that I thought he was recovering from a long week. He sniffed and peed as usual and we headed back in.

After awhile I made some popcorn, which was one of Barky's favorite meals. Whenever I salt the popcorn in the bowl, I toss it by flipping it in the bowl, inevitably dropping some on the floor, which Barky would hoover up. This time, however, Barky didn't even lift his head on the couch, which was a bad sign. About 15 minutes after I finished eating my popcorn, Barky got up off the couch, walked over toward the front door, lay down on the carpet and stretched out. My immediate first thought was, "He's lay down to die."

I went right to him and comforted him, petting him and talking to him. Then I grabbed some of his canned food, scooped it into his bowl and offered it to him. He didn't even look at me. And he's a beagle, so I knew it was bad. Then his stomach started convulsing every few seconds, contracting as if it was cramping.

By then, I was freaked out. I went into the bedroom, woke up Mama and told her that I was taking him to the emergency animal hospital. I had put Barky on a soft towel on the carpet, in which I scooped him up and carried him down the hall, into the elevator and out to the car, where I put him on the front seat. I called the ER and gave them the history as I drove down. Their reaction was mild on the phone, but when I arrived, they took urgent action, even though Barky had summoned the energy to walk into the office from the car.

The vet asked if she could do xrays to see what was going on, but they were inconclusive. She thought she could see a large shadow on one side of his abdomen, but she couldn't be sure what it was without doing an ultrasound. There was no ultrasonographer on duty, and there might not be one the next day, Saturday, so the vet offered to run one on her own, at no charge, because she thought Barky couldn't wait.

I didn't pick up on it then, but that was the first of many worrying signs from the vet.

I went outside to call Mama with an update--the waiting room is a cell-free zone. When the vet next came out, she told me that she had tapped a large amount of fluid from Barky's abdomen and now she looked visibly shaken and worried. She said they were testing it to see if it was septic or not. I asked what the prognosis was. She said, "If it's not septic, we'll have to find the cause. If it is septic..." Her voice trailed off and she shrugged her shoulders before walking off.

I got that worrying sign, loud and clear.

I went outside again to update Mama, who was openly sobbing as we discussed the prognosis and alternatives. I tried to focus on the positive, but I was thinking that if it's septic, he's likely dead already. I texted Brother #2 that very question, shooting burning arrows into the night sky. Again while I was outside, the vet came back into the waiting room with an update: not septic, but no idea what's causing the fluid to collect. She recommended exploratory emergency surgery to find out. There were three possible causes: his spleen flipped, his intestines had telescoped onto themselves, or he had "a mass." And no, we're not talking the kind the Pope presides over.

The first two were easy fixes, but the third was more complicated. If it's a mass they can extract, they take it out, sew him up, biopsy the mass and present us with options. If it's a mass that's entangled or spread, they call us during surgery and present us with options and, she said, "We have a discussion about quality of life. Whether you want to let him go from there or bring him up to say goodbye."

There was no mistaking her seriousness here. This was not a worrying sign, this was a clear message that the situation had rounded a corner that it wasn't coming back around.

I approved the surgery, then asked to see Barky before going home. It would take two hours to prep for surgery and another two hours in surgery, so I could at least try to sleep or just lay down for a bit. I went back to see him and a vet tech pulled off our collar and handed it to me, during which Barky was pretty unresponsive, so I asked if he was sedated. They told me he was on heavy pain meds for the stomach pain he seemed to be having. His head was at the back of his crate, so I stuffed my body in until my head was over his, lips to his ear. When I said hello, he tried to stand, but realized he couldn't and lay back down again.

I whispered into his ear that I loved him, that Mama loves him, that 3B loves him, using all of our names so he would remember who we were and know that each of us loved him. I told him that he was going to be OK, and that he just needed to hang in there, that the doctors would make him feel better. I told him that he was my perfect dog, the one I'd always wanted, then I kissed him, again told him that all three of us loved him and that I'd see him soon.

It took about 10 minutes to get home--at 1 a.m., all the lights were green--and as I stepped into the elevator, my phone rang. I was passing the second floor as I heard the vet tech say, "Barky went full code. The vet is giving him CPR now. I'll get the phone to her as soon as possible."

I told her not to bother, I was on my way back. She immediately hung up. I was off the elevator now, running up the stairs. I called our neighbor, apologized for the late hour, and asked her to come down and watch 3B's monitor. By the time I got to our floor, our neighbor was coming out of her place, down the hall to ours. I walked in, told Mama, and we hustled down the hall. It again took about 10 minutes to get back to the ER, but it seemed like a week.

As we walked in, the vet came out and greeted us. All she said is, "I'm sorry." We went into an exam room where she explained that she had defibrillated him to the maximum possible, but they hadn't gotten any response. No heartbeat. No rhythm. Nothing.

The vet seemed shaken by the whole sequence of events and offered to us that she could perform an autopsy, for which there was typically a fee, but which she would do for us for free.

We went back to the mourning room to see him just as they were laying him out under a blanket and we held each other and cried. We stroked his soft ears and his still warm back and belly and cried. We took one last picture of the bone-shaped mark on his back that gave him his middle name--Bones--and that we would never see again. We cried some more. We marvelled at how beautiful he was, even in complete stillness, remembering how people would stop us on the street to comment on how handsome he was--even stopping their cars in the road in traffic to roll down their windows and tell us how beautiful he was. And I kept thinking that maybe in just another second I would see his chest raise with a breath or hear him let loose one of his infamous tired old man groans.

We stayed with him until we were ready to say goodbye, by which time his feet had started to grow cold, and then we drove home, thanked our neighbor and crawled into bed, where we curled around each other and cried some more.

The vet called about an hour later and said that she had no more idea what caused him to die than she did before she did the autopsy. The lining of his stomach wasn't ulcerated, it was "perfect." His spleen wasn't flipped and his intestines weren't telescoped, although she observed that they sometimes flip back and untelescope spontaneously. Barky's spleen did have several masses on it, but they were all rounded and, in her experience, if one was to be malignant or causing a fluid buildup, it would have ruptured.

His end was just as much a mystery to us as the beginning of his life, what came before we rescued him, was. But as I drifted off to sleep, I realized that had I not picked those fights with 3B and Mama, if I was a good father, I would not have stayed up with Barky. He would have died alone and in pain--for although his stomach was convulsing, he never once cried out--in our living room. Instead, he had at least the small comforts of pain medication and the knowledge that his entire pack loved him, which was all he ever really wanted.

There it is, then. What happened is something that we do not know, and yet is visciously simple and brutal to understand.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

One for the road

It's been a long weekend, but not in a good way. I feel like I've been gone from work and the world for weeks and that I haven't slept for at least that long. This, despite the fact that without Barky to walk, I can now sleep in and even, as I'm about to do, go from the couch to bed without a detour down the hall, down the elevator, out the back doors, around the parking lot, inside the building, up the elevator and back down the hall.

As much as I begrudged these walks, I only did so before we went on them. Once I was in motion down the hall, I was having as much fun as Barky. It's good to go outside. I'm a better version of myself when I'm outside, and on any day during which I spend any time outside, which is what Barky forced me to do.

I would see the mood of the moon, stars and sky. I would feel the wind, smell the water if the wind was blowing up from the river, hear the trees whispering amongst themselves, and feel the cool kiss of snowflakes on my cheeks. If there was fresh soft snow on the ground, Barky would romp through it, snuffling into it and digging after what seemed like fresh scents on the same patches of weeds and grass he sauntered past every day. If it was an icy night, he would still sniff the air and ground, but move right along. If it was too hot and muggy out, as it almost always was late in the summer, Barky would do his business and turn right back for the cooler confines of our air-conditioned abode. The tropical heat overwhelmed his British genetics. But on a night like tonight--warm and clear, perhaps even a bit cool if a breeze stirred, Barky would linger.

He might convince me to as well--to stretch our walk past the circuit of the parking lot down to the entrance of the neighboring townhouse community, the end of the cul-de-sac where 3B races his bike in circles, across over to our building's pool, down the sidewalk under the juniper trees and farther down until we had completed a larger circumnavigation of our building than the parking lot allows and we returned in through the back doors again--energized but not awakened.

We would both somehow be in a better mood, be better balanced, be more securely grounded for those few moments outdoors. No matter that in a few short hours, before most people awoke, we would stumble out into the dawn light, or predawn darkness in winter, and again perambulate and peruse through our neighborhood--we still needed that one last stroll before bed, that one for the road, if you will.

I needed him to take me there, just as he needed me to unlock our door and push the buttons in the elevator to get him there, as evidenced by the fact that I'm about to roll off of this couch and slouch down the hall to slump into slumber without so much as a look out the window. Perhaps I can't bring myself to face myself in reflection as I look out over what Barky considered his domain. Perhaps I am currently temporarily blind to the beauty of the commonplace that I so recently reveled in and simultaneously took for granted.

And, perhaps I will step out onto the balcony before I drift down through the dark doorway of our bedroom where I will carefully step around the brown lump of a rumpled bed that still lays on the floor along my side of the bed. In the morning, after lying in my bed with ears pricked for the sound of a sigh, groan or contented stretch from that bed, I will again step around it on my way out of the room.

And perhaps, before I light the stove for breakfast, I will again step outside and survey the day in the only way Barky knew how--directly, intimately, curious and happy. I will, however, skip the pissing on the neighbor's shrubs part.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Because laughter is the best medicine

Because we all need at least a distraction if not a good laugh these days, we've been looking at a recent little movie. The short version of the story is that 3B was visiting his friend MLTU. Mama and MLTU's Mama were talking on the porch while the two kids had the run of the house for about an hour. Hijinks ensued and the Mamas returned to film the aftermath.

No refrigerator was harmed in the making of this film. You'll even notice that the 3B and MLTU were thinking about safety and cleanliness, putting bibs on themselves.

You can read the whole story and see the movie over here.

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We lost our best friend today

This morning at 1:30 a.m., Barky passed away unexpectedly from unknown causes. From the moment we met him at a beagle rescue league adoption day in Baltimore until we said goodbye to him today, we loved him with all of our hearts--a love that was returned in full.

There is too much to write and the attempt to do so pains me too greatly to complete now. I will admit to one lie I have told about him over the years, however. We had gone to the adoption day to see what this rescue league was like and how they operated, if we liked them, perhaps fill out the paperwork there for a future adoption. We were arriving late, so we fully expected all the dogs to be adopted out by the time we arrived.

We walked in with our good friend, D, who had driven all the way up to Baltimore with us to entertain our folly. Mama and D split off from me on our way into the store and were looking at other dogs, but all I remember is seeing Barky standing at the end of an aisle, bandana still around his neck, indicating that he was not yet adopted. He was perfect. He was the dog I've wanted since I was a boy.

Our dog.

And somehow, although the beagles with thyroid conditions, the ones so overweight their bellies dragged on the floor, the ones who were so lethargic they never once woke up in the middle of a tumultuous pet store--although all of them were adopted, this one perfect dog was not. I immediately asked if it was true that he was available and when the volunteer said that he was, I kneeled at the table and began filling out the paperwork.

Mama always teases me--especially after Barky did something like bury a package of cookies in our couch or drink our coffee in the car while we went to the bathroom at a rest area--that, "We walked in to look around; I turn around and there you were, filling out the paperwork." I always demur and say that it was her who picked him out, but we both know that's a lie, although we have both loved him with all of our hearts.

I loved him from the moment I saw him, and I always will. And Mama loved him from the moment she and D walked him around the store and he peed on several displays.

A few weeks later, when we could finally bring him home, we were all three as happy as could be.

Coming home for the first time.

Back before we had kids, when we could nap on the couch whenever we wanted.

Before global warming, when we used to be able to walk in the snow, a favorite activity for Barky.

Barky on Grammy's farm a few weeks ago, where he loved to be--outside, off leash.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

It counts as camping, even if it ends with brunch

At least nobody crapped on my kitchen floor today. OK, technically, when Barky crapped on the kitchen floor while Mama was busy with 3B, he was crapping on my kitchen floor, but I wasn't here to see it or have to clean it up, unlike unlucky Mama.

I was here, however, to take Barky out twice in 30 minutes this evening, for which I was serenaded with sounds that no civilized ear should ever be subjected to--the sound of a whoopee cushion full of jello being stomped on repeatedly came to mind. As I desperately sought for any other thought for my brain to latch onto, I remembered how 3B had observed, apropos of nothing, this week that "when you go camping, you poop in the woods."

That reminded me that we had indeed gone camping and I had indeed meant to scribble down some reminisces about it here or on a gum wrapper or dried out baby wipe before I forgot them entirely. As I stood on the lawn as far from our building as possible, listening to Barky's internal struggles, I recalled in no particular order:

  • I am not as good a dad as I would like to be. Sure, sometimes I think I'm the Zen-hug-it-all-out dad master, but the reality is much more spotty than that. Setting up the tent proved that. This was our first time setting up our new family-sized tent in the wild, where there are, of course, obstacles that weren't present in the living room early in the morning, such as wind and an excited boy. A boy who wanted to lean on, lay on, jump on, roll on and run away with every piece of the tent. Repeatedly. Let's not even get started describing how inflating the new air mattress went. You know, the new one since the old one sprung a leak because we let someone jump on it too much...yeah, that one. Anyway, my reaction was to pretty much directly oppose him every step of the way. Ever try that with a two-year-old? It's about as successful as asking Kim Jong Il very politely to please not launch that missile right over Japan--you can do it, so long as you don't care about getting what you want. However, despite my total lack of parenting skills in that moment--and many thanks to Mama who distracted and amused 3B while I was trying to figure out contact points A-M between the tent and the rain fly--I did manage to set up the tent without anybody resorting to tears.
  • I love nature; I love quiet nature more. Our night was uneventful--dinner, a walk to pay our fee, settling everyone into bed (us on the air mattress in the main tent, Barky on his bed in the vestibule)--until we tried to sleep. At that point, a bird started calling...no, calling isn't the right word. Shrieking is closer. Now we are not ornithologists, so I can't give you the Latin name of the bird, but we decided, Mama and I did, laying there on our backs in the middle of the night as 3B and Barky slumbered, that the common name of this bird is the Car Alarm Bird. Seriously. I have no better way to describe its call than to tell you to go to a parking lot, kick a Beemer and press your ear to the hood to get as close to the alarm as possible. At some point, some other campers finally rousted and tried to chase this bird off, causing it to call more excitedly and then fly around the campground calling vociferiously. I don't blame them for this, as I was already awake. At least I had something amusing to listen to.
  • It does count as camping, even if it ends with brunch. As those of you who follow me in my life as a twit know, we got up in the morning and headed out to brunch. I know you know that, since many of you snarked at me about that. Let me clarify a few things: it was Mother's Day, it was our first time camping with 3B, and it was Mother's Day. We weren't sure how 3B would take to camping, no matter how much he loves to play camper in our living room with his little tent from IKEA. The good news: he loved it. We also weren't sure how much we would love it, given 3B's propensity for sleeping perpendicular to us and Barky's propensity for running, groaning and baying in his sleep. More good news: we loved it. We also thought it would be a nice casual Mother's Day treat to stop at the Silver Diner on our way back home, which we did. We might have taken casual a bit further than most other Mother's Day brunchers, judging by the little boy in front of us in line who observed loudly about 3B, "That boy is still in his pajamas!" Hey, at least he had his Crocs on. And at least that boy didn't observe that after sitting around our campfire, we all smelled like we'd rolled in the ashes from Burning Man.
Well, in the 30 minutes it took me to write that, Barky hasn't made a move for the front door or the kitchen floor, so I'm going to bed. Perhaps next time I'll tell you about 3B's poop milestone at Grammy's.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bloody hell

I stayed at home with 3B, who was recovering from last night's illness, which only got more exciting after I finished writing. He barfed, oh, I don't know how many more times. Of course, they were mostly dry heaves, which are just as much fun as, shall we say, productive coughs.

After his last time, he desperately wanted out of his crib, which I understood, so I lay down with him on the lower bunk, where he promptly went to sleep. I spent the next several hours trying to keep my fat ass from slipping off the edge of the bed without waking 3B during my struggles. Note to self: before sleeping in twin bed with 3B, get duck tape.

Finally, I transferred him back to his crib and fell into bed with Mama and her Berlin Wall. Approximately 2.5 seconds later, or so it seemed, 3B was up and ready to roll for the day. Mama headed out and 3B and I settled into a mellow morning of Curious George shows, a Winnie the Pooh video, Elmo's Potty Time and too many Rocknoceros videos to count. After not eating lunch, a still-exhausted 3B fell right into his nap, as did I.

While he was recuperating from his hard night, I was seemingly getting more sick all morning. There was the congestion, then the scratchy throat, then my joints started to ache, then there were the random aches and pains and the feeling that a John Deere tractor had driven across my abs. No idea what that last one is about, but it was enough to lead me to nap while 3B did.

I had no sooner lay down then Barky began to do his I-have-the-trots dance by the front door, complete with whining and pacing. I lay down to see if he would settle in, but the little Trotskyite stayed out by the front door, singing the red dog blues. So, I did what any bad parent would do: I checked to ensure that 3B was sound asleep, then ran Barky down to do the dirty deed. Even with the time I took to pretend to pick it up (read: smeared it around in the grass), it took all of 10 minutes and I am happy to report that 3B was unharmed. I wish I could say the same for Barky.

Of course, after our naps, 3B woke up fully recovered while I woke up groggy and cranky. Perfect.

Barky seemed fine until just before Mama got home, when he again impersonated a Bee Gees album played at 78 rpm by our front door. When I felt he couldn't wait any longer, I took him out where he again did the deed, but this time with a trace of blood in it. Hey--don't you just love how parent blogs don't pull any punches? So, of course I'm worried, but his vet is closed for the night, and I think it's being caused by the pain killer he's been on following his teeth cleaning.

You know, the teeth cleaning where they found a growth in his mouth that has a 10% chance of being malignant and do you want it checked to see if it will kill him or if it was just a little bump on his gums? Of course I want it checked, but what I really want is for a week to go by without any growths or blood or barf, or even all three in 48 hours. Unfortunately, my vet couldn't arrange that latter option, so I had them send off his bump to wherever the check bumps for whatever they check them for, and felt relaxed because there's a 90% chance that he's fine.

Except for the bloody stool, that is.

So here I lie in bed--to dissolve into sleep if I can find a position in which no part of my body feels as if someone is pinching it in vice grips--with my book to read to help me drift off. You know, my book, in which the author explains that the epidemic that Abigail suffers through with their children while John is at Congress in Philadelphia, helping push for and draft the Declaration of Independence, is what we call dysentery today, but what they referred to as "bloody flux" back then.

Charming. Here's hoping the part that I'm on to now doesn't include so much barf or blood or scrubbing floorboards with vinegar. Then again, John has just moved to the Netherlands, so even if there's no illness, it's still in line with my week, thematically.

And yes, we cut Barky off from the painkillers, although I'm sad to say we don't have enough money to send him off to Betty Ford to ease the transition, and he'll be going to his vet tomorrow morning.

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Bucket brigade

I've been told by my advertiser, who keeps track of such things, that it's been a week since I updated my blog. Apparently, they miss me and want to know how I'm doing.

Ironically, I haven't been writing because life has been too busy. Tonight, for example, I'm up on barf watch, with the monitor in the living room while Mama sleeps in our bed with her body pillow which has the rough size and shape of a 30-foot long half-coiled python. I refer to it as the Berlin Wall, so she's likely not missing me much at all. Ever since I stopped bringing my grappling hooks to bed, I've had no way to get close to her.

But back to barf watch--at about bedtime, which is around 8:30 these days--3B was busy playing with knives--butter knives before you call child protective services...they just happen to be right next to the butcher block is all--when he suddenly declared that his stomach hurt. We shrugged it off for a moment, especially since we had a neighbor over, surveying our washer/dryer install to see if he could do the same in his unit.

A moment later, however, 3B was briefly in tears, so the neighbor made his exit while we tried to get 3B into bed. He kept calling out and tearing up, which is not at all usual for him. While I held him in my arms, Mama called our friend, who just so happens to be an excellent pediatrician, and asked all of our questions--ulcers? ruptured spleen? appendicitis? Alien thingie that bursts out through your shirt at the dinner table?

He said it was likely a minor virus and did we have a bucket handy? Mama grabbed a small red bucket as she walked back in the room--just in time for 3B to return his dinner into it. Following that there was much moaning--those are my genes showing--some crying and a few more rounds with the bucket, and one with the sheets and blankets on the bed, which are now in the dryer.

Admittedly, that's not what's kept me offline for a week, since it just cropped up tonight, but this is just the latest representative sample of what's been taking up my copious spare time. I'll be home from work on daddy duty/barf detail tomorrow, so perhaps during nap time I'll have a chance to catch you up on some of the rest. If I'm not napping myself, that is.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Riding, crying, hoping

Thanks to all of my six loyal readers who donated, the Ride for Research was a great success. The day was both beautiful and moving. The weather was perfect and the route was scenic, rolling past Walden Pond and on small country lanes through small villages and horse pastures. I was particularly moved by the volunteers and riders I met.

After slipping out of our hotel room, leaving Mama and 3B slumbering behind, I went down to the car, rousted a slumbering Barky, let him out, gave him breakfast and walked him on the shore of the reservoir. The water was mirror smooth and we watched families of geese walk across from the preserve and slip into the glassy water, which was far more interesting to me than to Barky.

The temperature was perfect for Barky and a bike ride, and when I put the mutt back in the car to await Mama and 3B, he went right back to sleep. I pulled on my bike clothes, grabbed a muffin from the lobby, retrieved my bike from the bellman and rolled less than a mile down the road to the start of the ride.

I was feeling ready for the ride, but not sure if I was ready for the emotions of the ride, and I was hit with that as I got my rider number. The woman who checked me in had lost her husband to a brain tumor when he was 49 and her three children, who were all teenagers when their father died, were riders. It was such a relief to know that I was among people who understand what I've been through--and who have triumphed over the tragedy that might have been.

A woman at the refreshments table was a brain tumor survivor, having had her final surgery six years ago. She and I talked about the importance of having hope and how events like this can provide hope to patients, who can see that they have the support of others and that research continues. It reminded me again of the importance of hope, of focusing on the potential rather than the peril.

Those of us riding the 50-mile course--there were 25 and 15 mile options--rolled out at 8 a.m. to the cheers of the volunteers, survivors and other riders and into a perfect morning for a bike ride. Before we'd even started, I had already taken off my vest and arm warmers--yes, bikers are geeky like that.

On the course, there was a large contingent of users wearing bunny ears and I asked one of them what the ears signified. She told me that her mother's name had been Bunny and that there were approximately 30 family members on her team, all riding in memory of Bunny. Then she warned me that the next hill was the killer of the course and as the group of riders spread out, we lost touch with each other.

The ride rolled by more easily than I had thought it would. It helped that it was a gently rolling course, so the hills weren't too steep and there were occasional downhill sections that I could coast through. I was estimating that I'd ride at about 16 mph, meaning that it would take a little over three hours to finish the ride, but I ended up averaging almost 18 mph for the whole course, finishing in under three hours. The course made riding easier, as did having company around rather than riding solo to work as I usually do when training...hm, maybe something about riding toward a rest stop rather than work had something to do with it too. Nah, couldn't be, right?

Later, close to the finish line, I came up behind a man riding with his son, who was about six years old, in a seat on the back of his bike. I wondered about them as I did so many others on the ride--who were they were riding for? And I thought of how I hoped that 3B would one day participate in rides like this with me. I listened to the father and son chat about the ride and the countryside we were passing through and then I noticed a small note on the back of the boy's seat: "I Ride 4 Mom."

That taught me how tough it was to ride with tears in my eyes.

Overall, however, the day reinvigorated my hope for progress against brain tumors. Almost 1,000 people participated in the event, which raised more than $500,000 to support brain tumor research and services for brain tumor patients and their families. Thanks again to all of you who supported my ride. If you think you missed your chance to help out, it's not too late. You can still make a donation--but hurry before the deadline arrives.

Not for nothing, it was fun to read, as I was riding, about Brother #2 who was riding at the same time I was in a charity ride near L.A. Sister #1 was also in my thoughts as she completed a triathlon--and now that she's on Twitter (resistance is futile) I'll be able to follow along on her next one. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to rise to either of their levels, but it was fun for a day to ride along with them virtually, and to hear from Sister #2, even if she didn't show up to push me up those hills.

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