It is called the Benz.
A rusty red parade bike with spokes offset to create a teetering back and forth, as if riding a horse, motion on two wheels. Obviously a dangerous bike that should only really be used in parade by clowns of the 1950s.
Of course we took it down hill.
Nothing is more exhilarating than having all the control and none of it.
Yes, you have handlebars and brakes. It was staying on the bike as it tried everything in its frame to dethrone you that was the problem. Especially on an incline.
My mother would, and still does, tell me, “Sue and I would ride it down that hill for hours with our ponytails whipping up and down like paintbrushes.” Which is a lot of words to describe something as simple as hair whipping up and down, until you see it in action and wonder how neither of the sisters had died doing this.
It was owned by my Grandfather and Grandmother.
The last time I rode the Benz was before that ownership changed.
2020 was the year my Grandmother passed away.
The Benz is a beloved family member that is now owned solely by my Grandfather.
I have experienced death before. In a brutal nasty way before my own older brother, and my own cousins.
So my having this experience is heartbreaking for my family, I am the baby after all.
I had a friend named Luke, he was my boyfriend’s best friend in the world. Smart as a whip, sarcastic as all heck, and with a sense of humor that would be canceled in seconds online.
He was working when a septa train dragged him three miles down track.
Painless to him.
Painful for us.
Grief was something I was still recovering from despite two years passing. It had been April of 2018, I still remember the exact date and time and where I was, what I was doing, and the details of words spoken to me. Expressions. Sounds. Scents. Feeling.
That week haunts me three years later, and as it approaches I feel sadness again.
The death of my grandmother was slow.
Not a cruel slowness, encroaching in corners of mind with unsure smiles at holidays about if it would be the last, or if next would be. But a slow that meant this was it, it will come and it will go. A walking death that came when the world stood still.
The last I rode the Benz was the last time she was living in my memory.
It was not a living funeral, no we refused to consider it.
It was a family gathering to bring her three grandchildren, her two daughters, her son in law and one of her granddaughter’s boyfriend (mine) together. A simple gathering amidst a global shutdown.
Alex, my older brother, and Jacqui my cousin had pulled apart the overpacked garage to find him. We all just had to ride him, had to show him off to my boyfriend, and to see if Mommom could recall watching her daughters, and years later her grandchildren play with it.
The Benz is not magical.
It’s just a bike with offset spokes and a mission to murder.
Getting it uphill is awful, going downhill is chaotic.
We did every step as if meditation.
And she watched us, from her wheelchair with oxygen attachment. Eyes down droopy, her face wilted with age.
Whereas Luke was youthful and sudden, Mommom was reaching the end of a very very long loved life.
For this we were grateful. There are few times where you can dictate what a dead person’s last few memories of you will be. Or of the world will be.
Luke’s last memory of me will be at a Mall where I wanted nothing more but to go back home because I was tired from work and rather annoyed.
My grandmother’s will be of me smiling on the benz with a ponytail whipping in the hair behind me. My boyfriend struggling to steer it while laughing with childish glee. Alex truding it up the hill and shouting about the pedals scraping the ground every few spins. Jacqui cackling, snorting as she wheeled it into the grass unable to stop just yet at the curb.
Her memory will not contain us in a pandemic unable to see her. Uncertain about health in the years to come.
It will be of the Benz.