A tribute to two bicycles and their owners

My grandfather died in December after a battle with prostate cancer - a battle that was not expected to be his death sentence until we learned last fall the cancer had metastasized.  A few weeks before his death he was still driving, still mostly independent, still verbalizing his plans to celebrate his 90th birthday this May. Then, just before Thanksgiving, it seemed someone threw a newly lit candle into a ravaging fire that gave the cancer full and final reign.  We were made from dust and to dust we shall return.

When I was in North Carolina with family during Papa's final hours and again for his funeral, I spent a lot of time around his house – the house he built with a few other retired (or nearly retired) men after he, himself, retired.  To file away mental pictures before many of the tangible memories disappear, I walked around his house, his yard, his garage.  His garage. 

Heymama and Papa on their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Ocracoke Island, NC

Three rusty cruisers leaned against each other, nestled against the back wall. Cobwebs chained the bikes together with silky strands, catching dust from the newly unsettled floor where I stood. I couldn’t bring myself to touch them. Two of these were the bikes my grandparents brought with them to Ocracoke Island on their 50th wedding anniversary, to visit my family on vacation. 

I no longer have any grandparents.  But I have memories and the knowledge that, just like their old bikes hip to hip in the garage, Heymama and Papa are finally together again. Perhaps they are riding their bicycles, catching up on the wedding anniversaries they haven’t yet celebrated.

Heymama and Papa on their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Ocracoke Island, NC

The bike I rode while I was visiting North Carolina is just a simple bike, but someday, perhaps, it will be found in someone’s garage by a daughter or granddaughter, and she will remember a time it was ridden by a loved one, and she’ll take a picture of it and share the story.

Charis Hill

Charis is a car-free bicycle advocate, healthcare advocate, and fashion model living in Sacramento, CA. A native North Carolinian and graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh, NC with a B.A. in Sociology (minors in Psychology and Women's Studies), she has lived in Sacramento since late 2011. Charis lives with a severe, progressive, autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis; her bike keeps her moving which is crucial to maintaining her current quality of life.