Next Score View the next score

    Connections | Magazine

    My motorcycle summer

    We were middle-aged, but somehow everything felt new. A tale of love found and lost.

    James O’Brien for the boston globe

    When two people find each other and fall in love later in the game — as my husband Jim and I did, a second marriage for both — a certain feeling may come upon them, a sense that they are almost young again. We knew how precious the days were and to make the most of every one.

    So the spring after we met, Jim bought a classic motorcycle — a Triumph Bonneville. He had just turned 60; his number-one passenger was 58.

    In the summer of 2012, we shipped the Bonneville from our home in Oakland, California, to New Hampshire, where I come from. I wanted to introduce the man I loved to New England. We climbed Mount Monadnock and swam in quarries and ate lobster rolls. It was the first time since graduating from law school that Jim took off more than a week from work.


    One time near the end of that summer, I spotted a farm stand with a sign out front: “Silver Queen Corn, First of the Season.” We bought a baker’s dozen, and since we didn’t have saddlebags, I zipped them up into my motorcycle jacket and hopped back on the bike. That night, we polished off every ear.

    Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
    The day's top stories delivered every morning.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    Two years after that, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died less than a year later, a few weeks shy of what would have been our third wedding anniversary.

    All that year I sorted through his possessions: cigar cutters and camera lenses and bass guitars, law books and poetry collections and the sash with Jim’s Eagle Scout merit badges, and chord books for every song the Beatles ever recorded.

    Then there was the problem of the Bonneville. The sight of it brought me up short every time I walked into our garage. But I wasn’t a motorcycle driver. What I loved was sitting on the back, with my arms around Jim, flying down some two-lane road, pulling into a shack for fried clams.

    Finally, a few weeks before the first anniversary of my husband’s death, I placed an ad on Craigslist.


    A week or so after I listed the bike, a young man came to check it out. He took a spin of course, studied the motor and the chrome. When he said he was going for it, I asked if his girlfriend liked to ride. She did.

    There was a place on the title to write the mileage on the Bonneville, so I went out to the garage to check. I stood there taking the sight in one last time. When I saw the number on the odometer I thought I must be reading it wrong. I would have sworn we’d covered 10,000 miles at least, we had so much fun on that bike. But the number was 1,826.

    A memory came to me. Late August 2012. Jim and me, on a two-lane road outside Antrim, New Hampshire — goldenrod in bloom, the sun low on the horizon, the air carrying the faint promise of fall. The farm stand. The corn.

    I headed back to the house, where the new owner of my husband’s Bonneville handed me an envelope containing 47 hundred-dollar bills. He got on the bike and rode away.

    I stood in front of the garage till the new owner was out of sight, taking in the sound of the Bonneville’s engine — less demanding of attention than a Harley, more subtle.


    It’s a sound that will always remind me of Jim, though what I liked best was the sound of that engine coming up the driveway to the house. Not driving away.

    Eat that corn while it’s ripe is the lesson. It won’t be there in November. Hop on the bike, love while you can. All we know for sure that we have is today.

    Joyce Maynard’s latest book, “The Best of Us: A Memoir,” about finding and losing her husband, came out last week. For a schedule of local appearances, visit Send comments to

    Tell your story. E-mail your 650-word essay on a relationship to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.