I had to renew my driver license for the first time since being sick and, thankfully, I could do it online. However, when this question came up, I stared at it for a long time:
I wanted to select yes. I’ve always been an organ donor. I imagined they’d harvest everything in my body and many people’s lives would be enhanced or extended. But, with this illness, I can’t risk it. I won’t give blood and I won’t donate my organs and it kind of breaks my heart. I wouldn’t be able to donate a broken heart, anyway.
But, let it be known, that I want my body donated for ME/CFS research. I’m not sure how to make that happen, but, if anyone knows, please give me details. Worst case, I suppose I can donate for medical research like my mother has organised with University College Dublin.
After the organ donor question, I got this. This one I stared at for a very long time:
Riding a motorbike was my dream. When I was a teenager, I got a second- or third-hand 50 cc moped which gave me incredible freedom and convenience. The Dublin bus system was unpredictable and I would crank that hair dryer engine all the way up on the dual carriageway to get to classes or get around after the buses stopped running (see previous post about being a nightowl).
During the very first conversation I ever had with my husband, he asked me, “If you could do anything right now, what would you do?” I had been telling him that I’d planned to move back to Dublin that summer, but, because of an upsetting situation, I didn’t know if I could. When he asked me that question, I answered, “Ride a motorbike across the country.” Unbeknownst to me, he was passionate about motorcycles. He hadn’t owned one in a while, but had recently been researching his next bike. I think maybe it was right then that he took a shine to me.
A few years later, I was tipped a brand new motorbike by a regular customer at the restaurant in which I served tables. He had been coming in for months, maybe years and, one day, he and his brothers pulled up on Harley-Davidsons. I got excited and whipped out the postcard of a Low Rider that I’d carried around for years: my goal, but I’d never actually sat on a Harley. Over the subsequent months, he tried to convince me to let him buy me a bike. I told him he was crazy. He told me he was a Microsoft millionaire (I’d never known that) and his wealth came to him like “stepping in shit.” He said it was luck and he had bought four or five motorcycles for his brothers and he wanted to know that he could altruistically buy one for someone who wasn’t a family member. I still told him he was crazy. He said he wanted to do it and I could sell it the next day and he wouldn’t care at all. He sat with my husband for hours and convinced him that he had no ulterior motives. One day he invited me to the Harley dealer and I thought it’d be fun, so I went and discovered I could reach the ground on a Sportster. He asked me what colour I liked and I said, “Black, definitely. Black and chrome is sexy. And a matte black helmet.” But, it was an off-hand question and an off-hand answer. I was just fantasizing. I had no idea what he was going to do that day; I think I couldn’t let myself accept it. While I was browsing, he was signing the papers. I tried to get into the office to stop him, but his brother stood in my way, grabbed my shoulders and said, “You gotta let him do this.” The next thing I knew I owned a brand new 883 Sportster, a helmet, custom-tailored leathers and a year of insurance. I used to stroke that bike, like it was a pet panther.
When I took the motorcycle safety course (which every driver on the road should take, it is so eye-opening), I dropped the bike twice, which should be an instant fail. They passed me, though, because the Honda Nighthawks they used were too tall for my wee legs and I had a perfect test besides keeling over at the stop signs.
I was never comfortable on a motorbike the way my husband was. He would leave for weeks at a time on long-distance trips, driving I-don’t-want-to-know how fast on country switchbacks. I would ride to and from work. Although I drove like a Pole Position speed-demon in a car, I was a granny on my bike. But, oh, I loved that feeling of freedom. One of my favourite memories of my life was driving across the Cascade mountains during the summer. Having taken off my jacket, which is such a no-no, I was just in a tank top and that rush of hot air, the empty road, the mountain scenery and the fear-adrenalin from not having my protective skin… it was like I’d sprouted wings.
But how can I justify $25 to keep the motorcycle endorsement on my driver license? The truth is, even with significant recovery, I will undoubtedly never want to tax my body and brain the way motorcycles do. My muscles were always tense, my hands lost all their blood supply from the vibrations, my brain was never not on high-alert, watching every car in every direction, scanning constantly for hazards in the road, animals, idiot drivers. It was stressful riding in the rain or driving over oil puddles or over grated bridges. I’ve never had an accident in a car, but I have on my bike, injuring my knee in the process. So, of course I will never ride again. It’d be like running up stairs instead of taking the escalator… and M.E. patients, even if they can stand up and walk, take the escalator.
So, I stared at the screen for a long time and, in the end, I kept the endorsement. If for no other reason than to have a beacon of hope for the future.