Ethel was always old, even when I was young she was old. She was 92 when she died in 1992. Ethel had a cleft palate that made her lisp. She had a German stoicism and an intolerance for frivolity. Aged 30 when the Depression hit, she suffered and would never forget the hardship. Ethel was my great aunt and I loved her.
For 50 years Ethel hosted dinner on Sunday. Ethel cooked true to her personality, solid food that would sustain you but had little flavor. Attendance was obligatory and many of the family members would stop and eat somewhere else before or after dinner. Fortunately Ethel was hard of hearing so it was only when she got to heaven did she discover how many of her dinners we flushed down the toilet.
Ethel and her sister Marie lived together in a beautiful house on the corner of 6th and Ash in Denver (Denver Cyclists please take a ride by and wave for me). I’d ride my bike from the Cherry Creek Reservoir to Ethel and Marie’s for Sunday dinner. When I started Ethel would get mad, thinking I was foolish (funny, she never was worried about me riding in the dark going home, like I halfway expected). To her a bicycle wasn’t a bicycle it was a Wheel, as in “put your Wheel in the garage or it’s going to get stolen,” or “are you riding your Wheel home?” Her relationship with the bicycle was formed in 1910 and never changed. I’d ride down the street with no hands just to scare her. This particular bike was a Flying Dutchman that I bought from The Big Wheel over on 8th and Holly (I think that was the address) run by a guy that I later found out was a cheat. It cost $500 in 1985. Ethel asked me what I paid for my Wheel and I told her. I thought she was going to have an aneurism, she was so angry. From priests to family to neighbors, she told everyone with disgust what I paid for it. She’d shake her head and say “nonsense, just foolish nonsense.”
Ethel lived a full life. She lived by herself for many years and went to a nursing home only when she couldn’t walk anymore (she walked to Christ The King for Mass everyday, rain or shine until she was 87). I’ve been thinking about Ethel lately because I’ve been getting the Merckx ready for the season and realized it’s a good thing Ethel died before I bought it because if she found out it was 6K I fear her heart would have exploded right out of her chest.
My guess is she hasn’t missed a single race of mine and is my greatest champion.