Motorcycles: Helping Battle Bereavement

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Lieback’s Corner (#14)

The events began unfolding from their weary slumber Friday afternoon. While stumbling through one of my bookshelves, searching for Valentino Rossi’s autobiography, “What if I Had Never Tried It,” I came across a book of essays from a philosophy class I took years back, the compilation titled “The Meaning of Life.”

I leafed through the pages, noticing my many-scribbled footnotes, and began reading the first essay placed in the book edited by E.D. Klemke, “My Confession” by Leo Tolstoy.

Literary analysis aside, Tolstoy basically asks three questions throughout the essay to get to the roots of all this existence that surrounds us: “Why? Well? And then?” In terms of literature, an entire semester can be devoted to just this one essay from Tolstoy, a man who died after abandoning his self-earned wealth from literature greats such as “War and Peace.”

So I’m complicating “My Confession,” which likely was the culprit for a few unnerving dreams, one involving the death of two loved ones by drowning in mud. That scary scenery developed within the brain early Sunday morning.

To allow these feelings to pass, I brewed some tea and turned on the TV, knowing the DVR had recorded the Malaysian Grand Prix that was broadcast at 2 in the morning. Finally, something to get me all away from this death.

But as many know, one of the upcoming heroes in MotoGP passed in a horrific second-lap crash – Marco Simoncelli. This lead to an influx of immediate emotional drought, my fingers shaking as I typed the story of the MotoGP pilot passing.

I needed a release, and that was supposed to arrive Sunday morning with a planned 200 miles of cruising with a few good friends. But while penning the Simoncelli fatality story, I receive a call from my good friend Neal…he had to “bail” due to dire circumstances; his grandmother had passed.

Two deaths only hours apart…could things possibly get worse? When thoughts such as these enter the mind, the road begins its beckoning call. I needing that cold brisk Northeast fall air to enter the lungs, soaking up all emotions. So with death looming in the mind, I throttled up the latest test bike, a 2012 Harley-Davidson Switchback, and headed for the mountains, the temps a brisk 50 degrees.

After a 100-mile trek on the Harley with the girl out back, I was at ease. Things were clearer, the mind a bit more relaxed. We’re humans, and we can handle these things…

But as superstitions run amok in my area, the thought of everything happening in threes was part of the Sunday evening discussion over a thick glass of Cab and some homemade Chicken Soup.

All was well until that third came into play; I received a call from my father the following evening, his phone breaking up throughout the minute-long conversation. All I heard was the word “cousin,” and I knew why my father was calling just before 10 at night, a time when he’s usually fast asleep, especially on Mondays.

Details aside, they were shipping my cousin’s 29-year-old body back from Denver, Colorado, where he was found deceased on a park bench. The story is an endless one, with equal amounts of delight, delusion and dismay.

After a long night of conversations and additional unnerving sleep, the alarm still rang at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, the time I began every weekday. The first thought? A mountain ride aboard VFR, or maybe a bit off-road adventure on the V Strom, or just jump on the Harley and cruise in comfort with no pretensions of speeding.

A motorcycle, even while under heavy doses of bereavement, remains the most cathartic thing in life. For the first time in my 32 years of existence, I realized motorcycles have equaled what my Fender Stratocasters have continued to do – release me from uncomfortable thinking.

While riding, we have to be 100-percent in the game, especially at high speeds or on a patch strewn with sharp rocks or downtown in piles of traffic. We must be 100-perent attentive, because the moment we lose focus is the moment we can become a statistic.

And I didn’t want other people to feel what I was taking a break from…

So after the third element of death came into my life that Monday night, I decided on a cruiser ride early Tuesday morning. It helped my body absorb the physiological trauma, my mind breathing fresh thoughts.

But upon arriving home the unthinkable happened. Nestled before my car in the driveway was a cat, both of its back legs broken, the poor tiger-looking animal crying. Even with the slight loudness of the Switchback’s exhaust, this cat came towards me, needing help.

This was amazing, considering I live in one of eight houses on a long stretch of road in the mountains. And this cat somehow arrived at my house after apparently getting hit by a car or falling from a tree or something. Weird, and I found my un-superstitious eyes glancing up towards the heavens, cursing my cousin for such an awkward sign.

I fed this kitten, and would have loved to take her in, but my lab Bostrom (yes, The Boz Bros) thinks smaller animals are play toys, although he means no harm.

So I called the SPCA, and arranged a few pillows and towels in an empty box that once contained some V-Strom parts, placing the cat in there. Not thinking, I began putting my helmet on, but realized I wasn’t taking this cat on any motorcycle. Maybe that idea of grabbing an Ural with a sidecar wasn’t such a bad idea after all, but I never proceeded with it, and was forced to take my car.

OK, I did my part in this cat’s life, but on my short-ride home, I kept realizing how cars are simply tools, such as a frying pan to cook or a tub to bathe. I needed solace from all this madness, and knew what would give it to me – a motorcycle. So when I returned home from the SPCA, I again jumped on the Harley for a quick ride, the rumble of the V-Twin relaxing the mind.

Some say there’s a master plan to all this, some meaning to this thing called life. But after the last few days, and realizing that such thoughts completely baffled the likes of even a Literary giants such as Tolstoy, I’m not looking for answers.

I think I’ll stick to simply working through things without questioning, using a motorcycle or two as my crutch.

Stay twisted; throttle yr soul
– Ron Lieback

Lieback’s Corner is the Online Editor’s column, which delves into RL’s recent motorcycling mind breaths and wanderings.