Early on in our marriage, Sunday became a day of contention, mainly because my husband, Michael, preferred his cycling pleasures over spending morning hours with me. He’d set the alarm for 8:00 am, slip out of bed and head out with his two closest friends for a 30-mile bike ride. The four or five hours he spent cycling gave him a chance to talk politics with his men friends, catch up on the week’s business, and to engage himself in a hearty workout which he thought might protect him from developing any catastrophic disease in the future. In fairness to him, I must tell you that he frequently asked me to join him, but I only agreed to accompany the trio a few times a year.
After six months of marriage, I began to adjust to the Sunday morning separations. I’d spend the early hours reading, writing, or catching up on email correspondence. Sometimes I stayed in bed until 9 or 10:00, exercised at home, and had a leisurely breakfast. When I was angry with him for leaving, I’d stack my dirty dishes in the sink, as if it was his punishment, hoping he’d wash them when he arrived home. You see, he often returned with an enormous amount of vigor, as if he was suddenly reenergized for the week. For Michael, cycling wasn’t just a weekend workout—he took his bike riding seriously.
Three silvered-haired men—wearing headgear, sunglasses and black spandex pants, had met for a weekly bike ride for more than 20 years. The trio pedaled with spinning spokes over concrete and gravel, despite wind, rain, cold, achy joints, or desert heat. Michael often biked ahead in order to keep up his speed and his cycling stamina. I’d watch as he sped off in the distance, often hands free as if he was showing off, but he wasn’t, it was simply an act of someone who had total control over his bike; someone who had the a talent to balance himself with ease while he pedaled madly. He’d laugh when he arrived home and say, “Boy, those guys were slow today.” But I always knew how much he enjoyed riding with them.
I think back to those Sundays and how my routine changed after Michael died of esophageal cancer in November of 2011. Now I’d do anything to feel his warm body next to me and to wake up on Sunday morning to the irritating redundant sound of the alarm clock. I want to feel the light touch of his lips against my cheek kissing me goodbye and telling me he’ll be home soon. I remember all the times I’d pretend to be asleep, not wanting to be disturbed. I’d lie in bed listening for the familiar sound of the garage opening and closing and how it grinded as if it needed a squirt of oil. Then I’d walk over to our bedroom window, open a shutter, and peek out just in time to watch the three men riding side-by-side down the long driveway heading out for the day.
One of his cycles, a street bike, still hangs on a wooden stand on the garage wall like a plaque to honor his talents. My bike sits beneath his and I often ride on Sunday mornings, pedaling down the bike path; Missouri to the Biltmore canal, over to Scottsdale and back to the house. I bike alone, wanting to remember the route we took; the distinct houses that frame the ride, vegetable gardens gone dormant, fruit trees beginning their bloom, and the familiar backyard dogs ferociously barking on the other side of the chain link and picket fences. I think about how we used to race each other, our wheels slipping on the loose gravel, each of us pedaling as hard as we could, both of us wanting to be the winner.
There’s a certain element of excitement that overcomes me on Sunday mornings—a type of energy that I once had as a teenager and as a young woman looking forward to the weekend. My perspective of Sunday mornings changed when my husband died. It now has more of an appreciated center to it, a stronger core that allows me to contemplate what is lost and what is gained.
This Sunday morning it feels like spring as I slide open the arcadia door. I listen to my neighbor as he plays his saxophone which in some strange way comforts me; the notes floating back and forth past the houses that line our street, competing with the soft cries of small children playing in a nearby yard. I listen to the melodic voices of birds chirping and a baritone wind chime staying in tune with the music; blending in with the distant noise of traffic muffled by an orchestra of swaying leaves from the limb of a nearby carob tree.
Sundays are the most powerful day of the week. Perhaps because it’s a day of rest, one tends to be more poetic and thoughtful. It’s a day to think about things that have passed, but not dwell on them; a day to open your windows and listen to a young man practicing his saxophone and sounding better each week. It’s a time to hear children in the distance laughing while playing their games, and to watch birds scurry back and forth on telephone lines. It’s a day to watch the cyclers as they whiz past you, dressed in spandex, helmets tilted downward, as they pedal madly racing one another—a time to treasure whatever memories one has and to be thankful for what has been and what will be in the future.