I write this from the far corner of the fields in Durango, where I just helped put my kids to bed. The importance of it is A: they are back in Fort Collins, so it was done over the phone (which if you’ve never tried to hold a conversation with a 2.5 year old over the phone, I highly recommend it), and B: today (June 10th) is my son’s 5th birthday.
We celebrated his birthday last Thursday night with his Omi and Opa, Uncle Sam, some friends and us. We all chipped in and bought him a new 20″ Specialized bike because he had greatly outgrown his 12″ Novara. Plus he wanted hand brakes, like his dad’s bikes all have. I let him join me in the entire process of trying out various makes and models, getting fitted on various bikes (as the stores would allow/help with) and letting him have a say in what one he really liked and felt good riding. It came down to one thing: color. He wanted a white bike with black and white features on it. Just like Dad’s Felt.
This past Sunday, he rode in his second crit race for the four and under age group at CSU’s Oval. He’s done four single track races and one crit race. At his first crit race, he placed 3rd overall. This past Sunday, he placed 2nd. I didn’t get to see it, which sucked.
This morning (even though he was born at 8:18PM EST), I called him first thing to wish him a happy birthday. My wife didn’t answer, so as I chugged along the rolling hills about 15 miles into the ride from Cortez to Durango, I sang him “Happy Birthday” into my wife’s voice mail. When I was talking to him this evening, he had listened to it three times. I told him it was okay to listen to it one more time before bed. He did.
I know, in the bigger scheme of things in his life, me not being there for this one actual birthday and missing one race probably won’t even register in his memories. I spend every day with him and his sister, we bike everywhere together, play together and even “work” on our bikes together. I try and be there for him at all times. For this one week, I wanted to do this one ride, for myself, to see what I can do physically. Come Saturday morning, I’ll know. Come Saturday morning, both kids and my wife will be there to see me roll across the finish line.
As I sit in my tent for the fourth night in a row, away from him and his sister, every bit of absence I experience seems a bit more…huge. Hearing their little voices over the phone as they get settled in for the night pulls a little more at the heartstrings. Hearing the two little girls being restless in the tent next to me as their mother tries to get them to sleep makes me imagine my little girl coming out of the bedroom just one more time to use the potty. And then, fifteen minutes later, just one more time.
The crickets have set in, most of the folks in tent village have settled in and quieted down and I am left here, 376 miles and 14,741 feet of climbing away from home and family.