Tumbling After: Pedaling Like Crazy after Life Goes Downhillby Susan Parker
“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.
- Crown Publishing Group
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- 5.88(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.03(d)
Read an Excerpt
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.
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