With the sky dark, the air cold, honestly…isn’t this late autumn day full of meteorological change? Surely. Or maybe I am full of change. And stretching the world to meet my spiritual projections. In any case, it is full of fear, particularly this morning, for another day has dawned and another date with the automotive unknown. Vis-à-vis the Dumbarton Bridge. Yes, I am journeying to Fremont, gateway to the east. That’s where the van guys now hang out, the ones who turned an innocent Dodge into a seatless transport for wheelchairs.
Jane walks me…that is the only word…up and down the footpath in front of our flat. And then, there is nothing for it but departure. Which goes without a hitch, let me point out, save for the one aberrant feature, the van’s door/ramp combination, which do not function as advertised…forcing me to reach for an overhead switch. Which I manage. Ramp retracted and stowed, doors closed. And it’s all me and Highway 84.
I am painfully conscious driving along Willow Road in Menlo Park, a busy thoroughfare leading to Facebook’s corporate headquarters…of Sam next door. He was riding his bike to work two weeks ago, crossing the street right in front of his offices…when bam, a car struck him down. He has been at Stanford Hospital ever since, in a coma. Leaving a wife and one and a half-year-old toddler waiting.
And those are the simple horrifying facts. And this is life. And this street, Willow Road, is certainly full of people on bicycles. I watch how one man on a bike crosses a bridge over a motorway, weaves between cars exiting onto the surface road…all of it requiring dexterity, high alertness and nerve. Turning at the Facebook campus, I try to understand how or where Sam was hit. Not that it matters. Why being the real mystery. They have all become fixtures in our lives. Sylvia, the toddler, all wonderment and delight. It’s been sometime since she pounded up my wooden wheelchair ramp, possibly to get a glimpse of one of Jane’s dogs.
Soon it’s the bridge. Up and over the Bay. Another mile or two and a change of freeways. But not before I cross the long railway track that conveys the Coast Starlight north along the East Bay, out into the San Joaquin Valley, and on to Seattle. I haven’t taken it in a couple of years. Would it still be possible? It would certainly be hard, very hard. Something about the very thought of ascending the metal stairs and schlepping through the endless sleeping cars…well, it makes me cringe. But it also makes me sad. For I’m older and things are harder. And one can’t hold onto everything. I’m glad that I took the overnight train trips to Seattle when I could.
Now the big change, southbound on Interstate 880…and only three miles to Access Options, the van guys. Miraculously, I find them on the first pass. Parking right in front of their new entrance. Marc, the owner, is out in seconds to inspect the door. Which it turns out functions flawlessly. As long as one remembers to turn off the child lock, one of the battery of overhead switches. There’s work to do on the disabled gear indicator. And then I’m back on the road. The road of life, eyeing the Facebook junction on the way through Menlo Park. Life.
I double check the weather forecast. No rain in sight still. So what is there but Peet’s?
Another bouncing wheelchair journey over the byways of Menlo Park. Another chance to brood upon a long simmering family rift. I notice my mood. Things can easily tilt in the direction of unalloyed sadness. A tilt I took early in life, it now seems to me, with overexposure to a disturbed and rejecting mother…at a remote desert location…better for a kidnapping than for raising a family. But that was then, I am seeing. In those days, things tilted and stayed that way. There wasn’t much hope. But now there’s a lot of hope. I have Jane. I have 16 additional mammalian legs. I have a new van. I have a ticket to ride.
As for the 16 mammalian legs…I joke about this. But the joke is on me. We are one big transgenic family. Bixby’s journey toward closeness parallels my own. Isabella’s battle with arthritis pulls at my heart. And the cats are purring and hissing their way toward my affections, as well. Although they are most certainly the wildest family members. And I do wish that we would all sleep at night. Quietly. At the same time. But you can’t have everything. And this is pretty good.