The Sounds of Sunday Morning

THEN

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.

IN RESTROSPECT

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.

NOW

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.

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About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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4 Responses to The Sounds of Sunday Morning

  1. gokulraman says:

    Your husband sure was lucky to have someone who let him pursue what he wanted. Whether you liked it or not then was not important. Had you not let him do cycling on Sundays, your introspection would have been a lot different after he passed away. perhaps a sense of guilt. Which you dont have now. Fantastic blog!! One lesson that am really taking away from your blog is “It’s a day to think about things that have passed, but not dwell on them…”

  2. Tracy poulos says:

    That was beautiful…. Brings back many memories for me , James never missed a day of running …I will never forget the images in my head of him coming home from Chemo and lacing up his sneakers heading to the desert in hopes of sweating out the Cancer and ridding his body of the disease…nor the final walk in Houston to what would be out last trip , he was determined to walk from the hotel to his stent placement, was not meant to be, we had to hail a cab and he collapsed on the floor when we arrived for the appointment , he was so very sick and I had no idea just how sick he was or that the end was going to be so near…the emotions this brings to the surface …guilt, sadness, anger, regret

    Hugs to you Terry

  3. coveparent says:

    Terry, thank you for sharing on this blog. I have only just discovered it – which is probably a good thing. My husband passed on from esophageal cancer at age 46, just 10 weeks ago. Terry, I too am a nurse and found this to be both a blessing and a curse at times during our 16 month fight. I am undecided about returning to nursing – but your story is encouraging.
    I smile at your reference to your husbands biking, and Tracy’s to her husbands walking. My husband purchased 16 sessions with a personal trainer and worked out at home so hard to try to gain strength back and beat this beast. Now I’m “stuck” with 12 of those sessions 😉

    Nice to find blogs like this, not so lonely this afternoon.

    j.

  4. Helen says:

    Terry,
    I just found this blog. It means a lot to me as my husband’s father passed from esophageal cancer 10 years ago and my hubby has the same “bad stomach”. I love my hubby and we are hoping that he will not follow in his father’s steps. My hubby as Barrett’s Esophagus and we keep are keeping eye on that and he takes medicine to help with it. Keep on writing this blog. I like reading it.

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