|My daddy, c. 1962|
I used to remember Father's Day, but now I don't so much, what with being out of grandfathers and fathers. This is my fifth Father's Day since Daddy died, and I think that not bursting into tears at the sight of other people with their fathers on this day is progress.
But this post isn't about moping, because my father was a very funny and practical man who would not appreciate it. Instead, I shall tell this story.
I got a bike for Christmas when I was six years old. It was green and it had training wheels. It was perfect. All the other kids in the apartment complex had bikes and I imagined huge amounts of fun marauding through the property.
One by one, the other kids learned to ride without training wheels, but not me. We had taken off one training wheel, but that was my limit. Until my father decided that enough was enough and it was time to ride a two-wheeler.
He was determined. It was summer, possibly late spring, but the weather was warm. I remember him taking me to a park to practice and he would run with his hand on the bike for a bit and then give me a little push and then I would glide for maybe a yard or two before falling over. I remember how the sweat rolled down his face and the towel or handkerchief he brought that was thoroughly soaked by the time we called it quits that day.
We did this many more times. He had thought that by the end of that first day, I would be a confident rider. And then he thought that maybe by the end of the second day, or the third. I don't know how many days he took me out, or how many towels he sweated through, or how many times he asked himself what exactly my problem was and WHY CAN'T SHE RIDE THIS DURN BIKE?!?!
Then one day I went out with my friends and I took my bike with me. I guess I was feeling hopeful. I walked my bike up to the top of the hill with everyone else, climbed on, and coasted down that hill on two wheels without falling. I was elated and my friends were impressed. We rode around the rest of the afternoon, and I could not wait to tell my father that I could ride my bike.
I don't remember that conversation. To hear my father tell it, his reaction was outwardly pleased, but inside he was gnashing his teeth and counting up the hours and sweaty handkerchiefs he could have saved if he had just left it up to the neighborhood kids.
He was just doing what fathers do, though, the good ones anyway. It became one of those stories you tell at Thanksgiving and Christmas, right before The Road Trip From Hell, and right after That Time Your Brother Did That Thing at the Table That Made Everyone Laugh So Hard They Spit Out Their Food.
Thank you, Daddy.