My Ole Breakfast Buddy
Posted on June 25, 2013
My friend Ed back in California sent me an email the other day that made me laugh, and as usual, “educated” me. I’ll elaborate another day (It’s about ducks) but for now some background story must suffice:
For years I’ve referred to Ed as my “breakfast buddy.” There are two reasons for this moniker. During my time working the front desk at Northrop Grumman’s corporate fitness center at the Space Park campus in Southern California I’d often be stuck with the early morning shift. Truthfully, It wasn’t that bad of a shift; As a part-timer, it allowed me a good deal of flexibility in my day, and I liked it particularly after ten years of working full-time as a single mom. Not only was the job relatively stress-free but most days by 11 a.m. I had the rest of the day to myself. Anyhow, I’d have to wake by 4:15 a.m.. in order to open the gym doors by 5:30 a.m. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating breakfast at that UN-Godly hour and besides, the roosters weren’t even up then so I’d wait until a more reasonable time, around 7:15 in the morning. The gym was never packed early in the morning so I felt comfortable eating at my desk mindful to do it in such a way that I didn’t offend any of our gym members. Plus, my breakfast choice was healthy which, I reasoned, was surely setting a good example for the gym folks.
In any case, there I’d be at my desk preparing my bowl of Greek yogurt and fresh fruit at about the time when Ed would walk in the door for his pre-workday workout. Eschewing the use of his membership card (perhaps he didn’t have one since he’d been going to the gym quite a long time, well before I arrived on the scene), he’d simply sign in at the front desk having memorized his membership number, just as I was taking my first bite of yogurt. Ed would then take a spot on the floor by the wall closest to the front desk to begin his warm-up stretches before hitting the free weights (and hit them hard, he did).
It was during this time that we’d chit-chat about a whole host of subjects. I think we covered everything from kids, to dogs, to politics–the latter, mostly different than mine, but that’s OK. Most of the time though we’d talk about bicycles and cycling. Ed (a year or two past 60 now) is an avid cyclist –has been since he was seventeen years old when he took off from his family home in Mexico, Missouri (permission reluctantly granted, I believe, from his parents) to embark on a 350-mile bike ride to Ames, Iowa. Yep…that’s correct….350-miles of cycling! Obviously, a remarkable undertaking for anyone let alone a teenager!
Ed is literally a fountain of knowledge on all aspects of the subject. While I was working the front desk at the gym he would share a great deal about his passion for cycling, to include entertaining stories. As I was a relative newbie to cycling I almost always had questions about all things “bicycle” including maintenance, equipment, and cycling. He’d happily share his knowledge and opinions and he share them over and over and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I’d ask the same questions (e.g., tell me about the gears, the chain ring, and gear ratios again. And for the umpteenth time tell me about changing the tire!). Each time he’d explain it again, without a hint of exasperation. He really was quite patient and perhaps he thought I was a dolt for asking the same things repeatedly, but if so, he never showed it.
The second reason I called Ed my breakfast buddy was because he turned me on to a breakfast specialty offered at the “roach coach.” The roach coach was the food van that drove around the Space Park complex offering a plethora of inexpensive food choices for the worker bees. Mind you, many of the choices were not healthy ones, and the one he had me hooked on I’ll confess wasn’t either. It was one particular morning when I had arrived at work for the early morning shift in such a rush that I had forgotten to bring my yogurt. Naturally I was famished by the time my breakfast buddy arrived for his workout and I told him so. He suggested the breakfast burrito at the roach coach. He went on to tell me the burrito ingredients (fried potatoes, eggs, cheese, fried bacon and “don’t forget to ask for the spicy salsa on the side’” he said) and then he left me, positively salivating, for his morning workout.
Now, I’m not one to normally eat these things…just ask my husband. Hubby is the one who usually orders an enormous burrito on most occasions when we eat out for breakfast. But on this occasion I’ll confess to making a bee-line to the roach coach during my scheduled break. And, in an effort to make it “healthy” I asked for it sans cheese. Oh my God….I all but inhaled it. I had eaten it so fast (uncharacteristic for me) that I craved another and had to do some serious talking to myself not to go back to the roach coach for another. I have to admit that while I was thankful that Ed gave me a reference for a delicious quick bite it wasn’t too long afterwards that I wasn’t cursing (ever so politely) the very same guy. It was becoming an addiction. Luckily (or not perhaps) hubby’s job transfer meant moving out of the state and of course, an abrupt stop to that habit.
My breakfast buddy retired and I rarely saw him back at the fitness center and while retirees still had access to the facility Ed lived far enough away that attendance certainly wasn’t practical. Before Ed left Northrop Grumman he gave me his phone number and email so that we could stay in touch. Every now and then he would email and share bits of news about his family (e.g. getting his oldest daughter off to college), or his cycling, and I’d reply with stories of cycling with the Biker Chicks, bike questions, bike accidents in our group, or my never-ending saga concerning my trashed knees. Then for months I heard nothing….zero….zilch. Honestly, I figured that Ed was busy relishing his retirement. Surely he was off enjoying long cycle rides, fun adventures with his family, trips to Hawaii, and so forth. As for me? I was busy enough with our impending move across the country and all the trials and tribulations involved with preparing for a move and trying to find a house.
Then….out of the blue last April, I receive an email from Ed. The subject line…”Latest Victim of Cycling Curse.” As I began reading the email, my heart stopped. “Oh my God!” I all but shrieked to my husband who was at home to grab a quick bite for lunch. “My breakfast buddy Ed was in a cycling accident.”
We read the email together; it gave both of us goose bumps. It also brought back memories of the two men in our bike group, both of whom suffered traumatic brain injuries while cycling during that year as well as my husband’s injury over Thanksgiving weekend as a result of being hit by an SUV while on his bike. My breakfast buddy Ed had suffered a traumatic brain injury (he still doesn’t remember how his accident happened). He spent three weeks in the hospital (several days of which were in ICU) and then afterwards another month in a rehab facility as an in-patient. I called my breakfast buddy as soon as I could, putting him on speaker phone so that hubby could join in on the conversation.
On the phone my breakfast buddy didn’t sound anything like the two other guys in our bike group that had suffered traumatic brain injuries; in fact, he sounded quite sharp and articulate…really, like my good ole friend Ed. However, according to Ed, he was really not the same man as before the accident. Aside from his brain still healing from the accident, he was still unable to drive (due to anti-seizure meds), and his new full-time “job” so to speak, was spending eight-hour days re-training mind and body in a rehab facility. Naturally, as difficult as the whole ordeal was for him it was even more so for his wife and daughters. It would be many months before Ed would reach a new “normal.” Still, there I was on the phone with Ed positively gushing with relief that he was not paralyzed (or worse), relieved that we were talking on the phone, as opposed to the alternative, and that he was even able to joke, as he spoke to hubby and I, that he is able to approach his recovery process as all good engineers do, in a linear fashion.
I felt terribly guilty that I didn’t go and visit my breakfast buddy before leaving California. In the weeks leading up to our move I had so many things to contend with in preparation for the move to “middle earth” Alabama, and I was having to do a lot of it mostly on my own since hubby was away so much on business travel. In addition, I’m ashamed to admit, I was also in a deep funk about the whole move to middle earth that seeing anyone, even my biker chick friends, was proving to be difficult, emotional. I was deeply conflicted about the move (to some degree that conflict remains though it has softened because, thankfully, time has a way of helping us through to the other side of most anything).
My breakfast buddy and I have exchanged a couple of phone calls since his accident last year and my subsequent move out of California. I’ve pretty much got him up to speed about trying to transition to life here in middle earth. He’s heard my story about being attacked by sixty-some pound basset hound to which he advised that I purchase a little league bat and carry it around when I’m out walking my poodle. He’s shared his own harrowing experience post-accident about fending off a vicious pit-bull attacking his daughter’s little dog while he was out walking (the pit-bull didn’t make it through to see the end of the day but fortunately his daughter’s dog is none the worse from the experience). And, there are still the periodic emails poking fun at his own recovery process and tidbits about life in general. I bring my husband up-to-speed on Ed’s news, always grateful that his own bike accident wasn’t as traumatic on his body (or our lives) as Ed’s was. And when my breakfast buddy shared in an email that he was back on the bike, cycling outdoors, some months ago, I was both happy for him and in awe. I thought of the quote by Winston Churchill…..”…never, never, never give up.” In a moment of quiet while on my bike yesterday, I realize that I’m truly blessed to know people like my breakfast buddy Ed.
….And then, there is my friend Sue….the one I call ‘the wind beneath my wings”….
….and my friend Lou….my California mom/yoga guru/friend…..
…and Mabel….my forever friend, sage, and overall protectress….
…. my beautiful sis…
…and several more friends who are part of the fabric of my life so far….
But those are stories for another day….
…..to be continued….