A Bicycle Built For Woo
by Wendy Feuer
After I lost my left hand unexpectedly at the age of 52, I gave away my beloved blue and silver bicycle. I was so afraid of falling over and hurting you. I am ashamed to admit that initially I recoiled from your scarred stump. But after I named you, Woo, —what my mother used to call me as a child- you slowly became a tender part of me.
Several years passed and my feet didn’t touch a single pedal. But then came that fateful day, July 19th, 2016 when a fleet of bright orange bicycles arrived in our city. You were four years old. Remember how enchanted we were by the handy basket attached to the U shaped handlebars and by the sporty looking Nike swoosh painted on the back fenders?
All summer I felt a deep ache whenever I spotted someone speeding by in a blur of bright orange. One day I popped inside my neighborhood bike shop.I inhaled the familiar scent of grease, rubber, aluminum,and sweat. Before I knew it, Jimmy, the mechanic, scooted towards me,and I was introducing you, dear Woo, outfitted in your tiger striped sock, to him. Jimmy selected a bicycle that fit my size exactly. He made the bike easier for me to ride by moving the brakes and gear shift to the right handle bar. Before I knew it, I had bought the yellow and silver road bike. But instead of riding the bike home, I slowly walked the bike home, after I realized, that there was no mechanism in place to help your stump grip the left handlebar. I didn’t want you to be left dangling , unprotected. Woo, It can be hard to know when it’s time to let go of something you love. When I got home, I put the bicycle in the garage and closed the door.
“Think about yourself forty years from now, looking backward,” my doctor said.
“What will matter?” The next day, the rusty hinges of my heart creaked open.
I raised my garage door and wrangled my bicycle inside my car. I drove to another nearby bike shop that specialized in custom parts. The skilled fabricator tenderly measured your stump’s circumference. You were 161 millimeters wide. He installed a metal ring, vertically on the left handlebar, that you could fit through, as well as a foam pad that you could nestle inside. It was shaped like a cradle.
We practiced early in the morning on a deserted playground. I snapped on my helmet and stumbled on top of the seat. I swerved around the blue slides and tire swings, the wheels clicking, as I picked up speed, motivational words running through my head. “We are all missing things.” “Think of all the things you can still do.” Muscles in my legs that I hadn’t used in ages began to ache, but I kept pedaling, pushing hard through the resistance, the two of us wobbling forward for dear life.