“Behind every successful man is a woman; behind her is his wife.”
– Groucho Marx
For a change of pace, Joe wanted me–his wife, Emma–to interject with some wifely perspective.
I won’t say that as a cyclist’s wife I have it nearly as hard as, say, a military or rockstar’s wife. The former may live without her husband for months, always wondering if he’ll make it home alive and in one piece. The latter may also not see her husband for months while he tours and, assuming he’s a stereotypical rockstar who’s into hard drugs and easy women, may have similar concerns that he may not come home alive or in one piece.
I, on the other hand, may not see Joe for a few hours to a couple days, depending on the length of his ride, which doesn’t seem that bad in comparison. However, the emotions I go through up to and during many, if not most or all, of his rides are probably pretty comparable.
Coming up at the end of July, Joe’s planning a 5-day tour from Iowa City to his hometown of Jamestown, NY, which will be a multi-day ride and the longest ride he’s ever attempted. Even just writing that sentence makes my insides gurgle.
Just on my own, I tend to actively ponder death and how it could happen to me. What if I choked on a slippery piece of spinach while eating my lunch by myself? What if that oncoming semi suddenly swerved into my lane? What if I slipped in the tub and hit my head on the edge, knocking me out? If my thoughts of myself are this morbid, just imagine how my mind races when Joe is on the road.
Back in 2009, when he and I were both attending college in Plattsburgh, NY, he had his first serious bike accident. He was in the middle of a 30-mile ride when my phone rings and I see his number light up the screen. I answer, thinking it’s just a check-in, but a woman answers back, asking if I’m Emma. I ask sternly where my boyfriend is and she informs me that he’s on the side of the road, he’d had an accident, and hit his head. He was going to the hospital and I was to meet him there, not come to where he was.
If you’ve ever gotten that call–and I sincerely hope you never have and never will–you know that feeling, like dropping backwards into a pool of water. The information is the slam as you hit the surface and then you let it engulf you like the water that sucks in around you, suffocating and silencing. You’re stunned for a few seconds before you realize you need to get back to the surface and you begin kicking and clawing frantically.
My words were a jumble of fear, anger, and sadness as I attempted to pry more information from this random woman than she could possibly give. After all, she wasn’t a doctor or even an EMT. She only knew what she saw, which wasn’t much.
I’ve gotten many mid-ride texts and calls from Joe over the years telling me that he’s run out of water, he needs me to talk at him to keep his mind sharp, or that he was almost hit by a car but it was a narrow miss. He’s been yelled at by both motorists and other cyclists, forced off the road by semi trucks, and even clipped by a car.
Needless to say, my worries are well founded but although nature determines my thoughts, I need to remember that our marriage must determine my actions.
The bottom line is that my husband needs to be supported in his endeavors. Although I may be constantly worried about his welfare on long rides, his training schedule and diet leading up to the departure, and even just his everyday safety on his commute to and from work, I try to remind myself to reign in my concern. After all, Joe is an adult, he is very technical and informed when it comes to his health, and I’m sure he’s not being stupid and weaving in and out of traffic with a death wish.
The other half to this whole is that Joe also understands and has responded well to my concern for his well being. For years we’ve used the RoadID app so he can send me a live map of his rides, whether he’s commuting, training, or on a longer ride. The app is free, it updates his location every minute, and you can even set an alert to notify you if the person you’re tracking is idle for more than 5 minutes. We don’t go that far, but it’s still an option.
Also from RoadID, I just recently purchased Joe a (very manly) ID bracelet with his name, city, two contact numbers, and his medical alerts, just in case he is ever in another accident and his phone is not accessible.
Joe’s accident in 2009 was a big wake up call for the both of us and while it probably spiked my crazy wife nagging tendencies, I’m very glad that it did. I am confident that when the next accident occurs (and it will), we’ll both be ready.