Cold rain falls in the river, flows down to the sea, gets into the skyline, circles endlessly. Same old rain on the wind, same old pain in my soul.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Green Bike Summer

It was green. Naturally. A green I can’t describe but every once in a while I see it in passing cars. A type of aqua maybe but not quite. The one he had bought me was black.
You must know, that my father never bought anything for his children but the necessary staples. He lived during the depression and fought in World War Two. Those people just don’t toss money around loosely. I and my brothers all worked jobs since we were twelve because it was the only way to know anything other than pork chops and mashed potatoes.
But there it was, a used black three-speed bike and him all uncomfortable in the giving standing beside it. This was huge. He didn’t even spring for class rings or yearbooks, or even class pictures. You want it, you earn it, Buddy!
The trouble is, I didn’t want it.
I had been mentioning to him how my best friend John and I were going to bike all summer long to distant towns and unknown destinations. This I had done just so he wouldn’t be surprised when he would see the new ten-speed bike I planned to buy with the money I had earned.
I tried to appear pleased and surely was surprised but I was thirteen and had made plans that a black three-speed would never be up for. It would never pull the hills or keep up with John. The handlebars were straight-and it wasn’t green.
So I traded it in. Just like that. Without so much as a word to my Father, I took his gift that he so out of character gave and traded it in for a green ten-speed just one day after the Holy offering.
There is no doubt that I hurt him. And perhaps it could have been handled with greater tact, even from a thirteen year-old, but I knew my Father. He never would have agreed to my desire, thinking it frivolous. All,- "It costs how much?!!" and "When I was your age..." But he never was my age, and I would never be his age. We were two different people in two different times and this chasm could not be bridged. He never said a word, only shook his head and sideways sniffed, as if pepper had blown up his nose.
I did what I felt I had to do and it greatly defined who I became. Not saying it's good or bad. Just saying it is.
John and I went everywhere that summer. Even to Minneapolis. We found every road that wove through the great waters of Minnetonka. We met girls. We laughed. I kept up and that green glistened in July’s warm sunshine. We rested on soft hillsides and waded sweet waters. We talked of everything thirteen year-olds talk about on lazy summer afternoons. I remember having an odometer of sorts. We put on over a thousand miles.
I could have been the good son. I could have shrugged and explained to John that great adventures and exploration would have to wait at least one more year. But then, that's who I would have become; the wise pat him on the back son with time-shares in Florida and Wednesday city council meetings and not the me I am.
But I didn’t and I’m not sorry. I am sorry I hurt my Father for a time, but we both moved on and moved closer even though I'm still a head-shake and eye roll to him when anyone asks of me. But that summer. Boy oh boy, that summer. I wouldn't trade it for anything!