Whenever I’m struggling during a ride these days I picture my dad waiting for me at the next turn, atop the next hill, at the next intersection. This isn’t particularly fair of me: my mother is the parent who largely raised me, got me into running and cycling, and was a serious cyclist herself whose regimen topped hundreds of miles a week. My dad had nothing to do with my advancement in cycling in any way.
But Dad has been dead for nearly 8 years now (unbelievable) and Mom is still here, and it’s always easier to idealize a person when you know there isn’t a chance you’re going to fight with them anytime soon. Mom and I live a few miles away from each other. We’re very close with often very opposing viewpoints, and things can get heated between us quickly. I hate fighting with my mother, but I hate even more so being told that I’m wrong and having no opportunity to defend myself. This is my life at 34: getting into nitpicky fights with my sole remaining parent.
And I refuse to give in. Nothing I say is going to change her mind; she’s stubborn and strong-willed, as she raised her daughter to be. She’s convinced that she’s right and I’m wrong, and not a damned thing I do is going to change that. No matter how persuasively I argue, no matter how elegant my defense, she is NOT going to agree with me. Ever!
And let’s be real here: when getting into a heated argument with my mother, my argumentative skills are virtually non-existent and there is absolutely no elegance to my defense whatsoever. If there were, I wouldn’t be sitting here blogging about it and the pent-up frustration and fury roils around in my gut like ptomaine.
But I keep fighting. Which is absurd. Someone free me from my own insanity!
So back to Dad. When I was training for my first marathon Dad mapped out courses for me around his town in South Carolina so that I could continue to adhere to my training schedule while I was there. Then he acted as a roving rest station: he would park a mile up from where I started and sit in the car doing the crossword. When he’d see me approaching, he’d call out to ask if I needed anything, then hand the requested items out the car window to me. It was pretty awesome, and made for a great bonding experience towards the end of my dad’s life. As much as Dad loved my sister and I, he was a Disneyland dad to us. We lived with Mom: she was the parent. Dad was who we went to see on vacation. Mom made Halloween costumes and helped us with homework and shuttled us to cross-country meets, band practices, games and shows. Dad took us whitewater rafting and to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Washington, DC, to Carowinds and to North Myrtle Beach, land of golf courses and massive Atlantic waves. We lived practically AT the beach at Mom’s house, but that only increased our disinterest in it. Plus it was the Gulf coast: bathwater-warm, no waves to speak of, and friggin stingrays everywhere.
Poor Mom. How do you compete with that? It’s impossible. Many days at Dad’s were one adventure after another; days at Mom’s were dumping bookbags on the floor and being told to pick up our room and do our homework and set the table for dinner. Not to teeter in our chairs (Dad always let us) and to put our napkins on our laps (Dad didn’t care). And so for some terrible reason beyond my ability to understand, I still fight with Mom. Not as much as we did when I was younger, but when it happens now I feel like a total, utter jerk. Why can’t I just take the high road, keep my mouth shut, and smile and nod? Arguing has never worked. Why do I keep doing it? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I am clearly SO insane when it comes to this. What the hell is the matter with me?
Maybe one of these days I’ll figure it out, and think of Mom cranking through the next turn on her old roadbike with full Ultegra setup as I haul up Bingham Hill Road or head out to Lory State Park. Maybe I can even catch up with her.