Lately I've been having a tough time. I tend to beat myself up when I'm having a tough time because there's so much to be grateful for. I have a book coming out in a little over a month. I have a family and community that sees and helps me. I have two of the most resilient little boys I've ever known to call my own. Every day they inspire me. We have had a true summer for the first time in two years. Beaches and pools and sprinklers and popsicles. Tan lines. I am working on a new book. I am teaching. My mom is doing well.
Ari has embraced second grade and Lev: a new school. A wonderful, free Pre-K program at College Heights. It's just down the street. I am home working by 8:05 AM after five years of driving to and fro for another wonderful school: IJP. It was hard to leave our community there, they have seen us through so much sorrow, but it was time. And an opportunity I could not pass up.
So on paper I should be frolicking through fields of daisies, a broad smile on my face. I am grateful, truly, but the anxiety and sadness as of late; the feeling that these hot days are endless -it's clouding my view. I'm restless and irritated. I'm nervous about my new book being released into the world. I'm missing Ronen so much that sometimes I can't breathe, and this missing is further compounded by the passage of time since his death. I'm proud of how far we've come, at this tight unit of three that is us, but I am also so sad. That this is how it had to be.
And my dad. I miss his voice. I miss how well he knew me. I miss him with the boys; the way they made him laugh. I miss him with my mom and brother. I miss hearing him tell me when I was screwing up, and I miss hearing him tell me when he was proud of me. The other day I imagined him and Ronen coming home together after a tennis game, the way they would stumble through the door draped in towels and covered in sweat and I had to sit down, right in the middle of the floor and put my head between my legs. I got up a few minutes later. It was time for carpool.
Something I've started to do is bike Lev to school. I am woefully out of shape and there are a lot of hills, but I make it there and back. Sometimes I get off and pull the bike, with Lev in the trailer behind me and I sweat and grunt. But sometimes, I fly down a hill and I think of my youth and Ronen and my dad.
My dad taught me how to ride a bike. He took me and my brother out to the big grassy hill behind the elementary school, dressed in layers of heavy clothing and gave us a big push. Pedal! he would yell at the top as we careened down, inevitably crashing and flying off the first ten or twenty times. But eventually we got it. Bike riding as a kid is one of my favorite memories – feeling so free and young. My dad too would bike to teach sometimes, and once or twice I went along, slogging through the heat and humidity of Mobile summer mornings. I would dutifully ride behind him. There was something about the coolness of that, of exercising as a means of getting to work that I understood even then. No one else's dad did that, but mine did. He wasn't like the other dads. That was cool.
I didn't get back on a bike in the same way until I met Ronen. A friend of mine gave me her old Schwinn and we would criss cross through the streets of Brooklyn in the summer twilight – up to the park to run. Ronen was the most fit person I had ever met – he loved to move and sweat and experience. It was enchanting and sometimes terrifying to ride behind him, especially during his post doctoral year in Chicago when I almost got clipped by a bus, but I always felt safe. And cool. Because what is cooler than exercising as a means of transportation? Not much, I don't think.
So today when I got home, I recognized that I felt better. That my anxiety had abated because in a sense, both of them were with me on that ride – the memories so visceral and happiness-inducing. And I was passing their lesson onto Lev. Will he remember these bike rides in the same way? Ema sweating and grunting; him laughing as we flew downhill past all of the other moms driving?
I hope so.