Tumbling After: Pedaling Like Crazy after Life Goes Downhill

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Overview

?I think Ralph fell in love with the uphillness in me. I could keep up with him on windy passes and minor climbing peaks. But I never stayed with him on the downhill. He was always too fast. He?d wait patiently for me at the bottom of a black diamond run, at the end of a long, winding mountain road, or at the foot of a crag. He was happy when I could get to the bottom of anything. I wasn?t with him the day he had the accident that left him a C-4 quadriplegic. Perhaps it?s the uphillness in me that is keeping me with him now. It?s all uphill from
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Overview

“I think Ralph fell in love with the uphillness in me. I could keep up with him on windy passes and minor climbing peaks. But I never stayed with him on the downhill. He was always too fast. He’d wait patiently for me at the bottom of a black diamond run, at the end of a long, winding mountain road, or at the foot of a crag. He was happy when I could get to the bottom of anything. I wasn’t with him the day he had the accident that left him a C-4 quadriplegic. Perhaps it’s the uphillness in me that is keeping me with him now. It’s all uphill from here. No more downhills to carve through gracefully or sail down safely; only up, up, up.” —from the Introduction

Suzy Parker and her husband, Ralph Hager, spent every free moment together biking, skiing, and hiking. All that changed in a split second when a freak cycling accident left Ralph permanently paralyzed below the shoulders. In that moment, Suzy’s old life fell away and her new one began. In Tumbling After, Suzy chronicles her transformation from carefree outdoorswoman to full-time caregiver, and paints a loving portrait of the impromptu, oddball family of concerned neighbors and friends who become her new lifeline. With Jerry, the tender ex-con; Momma Scott, a guardian angel and force of nature in a feather boa; and Harka, the culture-shocked Nepalese, at their side, Suzy and Ralph weather the loss of old friends and learn to embrace a new way of life with hope and a healing dose of the absurd.

This astonishing memoir, devoid of self-pity and told with breathtaking candor and a wry sense of humor, is an inspiring journey that is ultimately a story of survival andsecond chances—and the unexpected joy and love that can grow out of grief if given the slightest encouragement.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
These two engaging memoirs by California freelance journalists demonstrate how lives, family, and friends change after serious accidents. Thrown and trampled by her horse, Dunn (Failing Paris) survived with a badly fractured leg requiring extensive reconstructive surgery and the threat of future infection and amputation. As she convalesces, she candidly reviews her life and reflects on what it means to be accident-prone. Is this calamity not the first, but the most serious just a coincidence, or does it indicate something deeper that needs to be examined? Barely able to walk again, she takes up yoga, explores complementary therapies, and embarks on a path of emotional and physical healing. Dunn concludes that her accidents were an unconscious message telling her that she did not care enough about herself and her future. She returns to writing, divorces her husband, gets back on her horse (literally), and survives a second fall. Both active sports enthusiasts, Parker and her retired scientist-husband, Ralph, were planning to move to Colorado when he was knocked off his bicycle and paralyzed from the neck down. In a series of short essays that first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications, Parker candidly relates the fears and frustrations of learning to be a primary caregiver for a quadriplegic. Friends desert her, but colorful Momma Scott and her African American neighbors step in to lend emotional support. Two live-in personal attendants, an ex-con, and a Tibetan immigrant form an unconventional household centered on caring for Ralph and for one another. With humor, Parker spares no details describing the personal routines; the clashes of class, culture, and caregiving; and her delights in new friends and small pleasures. Both books are recommended for public libraries. Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Absorbing account of the author's sudden plunge into life with a quadriplegic. Suzy Parker met Ralph Hager on a bike trip in Mexico; they got married and made a life of rock climbing, skiing, camping, and socializing. Then one day when she was 44, her husband went over his handlebars and woke up without the use of his body below his shoulders. Parker paints a most vivid picture of the challenges faced by this once thrill-seeking couple who now must devote the lion's share of their time to getting Ralph awake, cleaned, fed, drugged, catheterized, in his wheelchair, to his computer or the television, and through the day. She was almost undone by the challenge, and her story traces her ways of coping-therapists, support groups, drugs, family, activism-and others' reactions to the accident. A new set of friends appears as her old circle dissipates. Mama Scott walks in one day and becomes a fixture with her sequins, soul food, and handicrafts; laid-back health-care worker Jerry welcomes Parker into his bed; former Tibetan sherpa Harka moves in to help care for Ralph and get to know America. Rather than climbing cliffs, Parker expends her energy getting Ralph to the movies or the ballpark, and explorations take place much closer to home: in the apartments of house-bound neighbors and at the local supermarket. As in her NPR commentaries and columns for the San Francisco Chronicle, Parker employs a mix of grim humor and unflinching honesty to lay bare the combination of raw despair, hopelessness, and tedium of caring for a man who once climbed mountains and now must have his bowels voided manually. She's also candid about the surprising remedies (including the affair with Jerry) she grabs for andclings to with a death grip. Deft, compelling, and unexpectedly entertaining.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609608562
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/16/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

It's All Uphill From Here

There was a time not long ago when I loved to ride my bicycle up hills. It was my favorite activity, along with snow-shoeing on a powdery slope and climbing a vertical rock wall. The same with skiing: I liked charging forward on an incline, strapped into skinny skate skis or telemark boards. I craved the adrenaline rush of pushing hard. My husband, Ralph, enjoyed the same activities, and together we played with gusto, always challenging each other. We stood on our bicycle pedals and really cranked. We hung from the ends of our fingers on big jug holds, letting our legs dangle from the naked rock face. We couldn't explain why. It just felt good.

But, unlike Ralph, I never enjoyed going downhill. It was too scary. I didn't like the out-of-control feeling that I might flip over the handlebars, crash into trees, wrap myself around telephone poles, smash into a cliff face, or become buried in an avalanche. Ralph never worried about such things.

When I skied, bicycled, ran, and climbed with friends, I was often the first up a hill or crag but always the last down. I was too cautious and timid, or maybe, I thought, I was just the smart one.

My friend Peter nicknamed me the Most Determined Woman in the World. I got on his nerves with my uphillness. He called me the Energizer Bunny. I kept chugging along, he claimed. I had ten years on him and most of our companions, but I wouldn't quit. I had to keep moving. Ralph was the same way.

At work, I received the Whirling Dervish Award. It was custom-made for me: a certificate with a tornado sketched in the center of the paper. Around the fearsome storm, buildings,people, and animals swirled helter-skelter in the air. The tornado had eyes and a slightly manic expression. It was supposed to resemble me.

A former supervisor once recommended me to a future employer. "She's a real spark plug," he explained. "A regular firecracker." The description was meant as a compliment, but it hurt my feelings. I got the definition of spark plug and fire hydrant confused.

I think Ralph fell in love with the uphillness in me. I could keep up with him on windy passes and minor climbing peaks. But I never stayed with him on the downhill. He was always too fast. He'd wait patiently for me at the bottom of a black diamond run, at the end of a long, winding mountain road, or at the foot of a crag. He was happy when I could get to the bottom of anything.

I wasn't with him the day he had the accident that left him a C-4 quadriplegic. I was at a gym in San Francisco, working on my upper body muscles so that we could go on a big wall climb together. Maybe if I had been with Ralph, his accident wouldn't have happened. Maybe he would have slowed down to wait for me. Maybe if he had been three-quarters of an inch to the right or to the left on Claremont Avenue, his front bicycle tire would not have been pierced by a tiny sliver of glass, a sharp pebble, or an upturned thorn.

Perhaps it's the uphillness in me that is keeping me with him now: the Energizer Bunny, the Whirling Dervish, the little spark plug. It's all uphill from here. No more downhills to carve through gracefully or sail down safely; only up, up, up.

I'm good at it. Ralph is good at it, too. He's an uphill man all the way. We'll just keep at it, I suppose, until we get tired or run out of batteries and spark plugs, or a whirling dervish spins into town and carries us away.

Copyright 2002 by Susan Parker
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2002

    Captivating

    I was totally captivated by this book, which will stay with me. Susan¿s Parker life was turned upside down when her husband had a bad accident which paralyzed him from the shoulders down. This book is vignettes of her life since. Her writing reminds me of funny adventure travel writers like Tim Cahill, Pico Iyer, Bill Bryson and Doug Lansky. Her journey is not to a foreign land, but might as well be. Her description of how she built and found a new life is captivating, funny and moving.

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