When I was 8 years old I wanted a bike. My father insisted on building a bike from scratch instead of buying one. I never challenged this idea because I knew my father could accomplish anything he set his mind to, and I knew he’d build me something we could never buy in a store. My father was my world growing up and I watched him build entire houses from dirt. I watched him work 7 days a week for as long as I could remember without one complaint. My father was a great man, and really gave me the best he had and continued to do so until his very last breath. Maybe it is a bit arrogant to think there is nothing I can not achieve when determined and focused, but this is what my father taught me to believe. He would amaze me all the time, giving selflessly to the world and never asking anything in return. He never showed doubt or fear to any task. Today, looking back I wish I could ask him, “Dad was there anything you feared, was there anything that made you doubt yourself?” If there was he never showed it. Even in the last few days of his life I never saw a bit of fear in his eyes. Sadness, yes. A yearning to live, yes. However, I can’t say I ever saw fear. This strength I carry with me, in me, and I pray to the memory of him everyday for the honor to have his blood in me. His blood keeps me strong, and I find infinite strength in his memory. This bike is one of many great memories he gave me, but it is touchstone I go back to time and time again to find my center. I don’t remember how this bike was lost, I don’t remember the last time I rode it, but I remember every step we took as we built it together. It was my first bike, and I will always remember the fall nights we spent together building it in our garage. I will never the first time I rode 20 feet without falling. The chill of the autumn air, the amber glow of the street lights and the long shadow cast by the huge oak tree in front of my neighbors house are so vivid. These days I will never forget. Looking back it seems like yesterday. The last day my father was alive he told me, “Son it all goes by so fast, it is truly is a blink of an eye.” He was right. I’ve tried to make this the mantra that I breath in everyday, and as deep as this thought is burned into my soul it is a struggle to stay focused against the numbing rhythm of daily life. This rhythm easily pulls you into a complacent cadence of ignorant bliss. It’s a constant struggle we all fight, but I fight everyday knowing he would want me to fight.
I only have fond memories of my bike. We picked every piece out individually and spent several weekend together building itpiece by piece. First the frame. We painted it a mat black. We then put the handle bars on with some blue grips, along with the wheels. Then we added a banana seat, and some knobby dirt tires. The pièce de résistance was a shiny mongose sticker. My father captured my imagination by telling me how this small mammal was known for its ability to kill venomous snakes, particularly the deadly cobra. He had a way of making every story a colorful narrative, and sparking the fires of my imagination. After a few weeks of buying parts, painting the frame, and tightening bolts it was ready to ride. At first he would run behind me, holding the back of my seat until I gained balance. I still remember falling as soon as he let me go. Eventually, I would stop paying attention to whether he was holding me or not and before I knew it I was riding longer and longer distances without him. At first the fear would control me and I’d fall as soon as he’d let go, but eventually I learned to forget the fear and just pedal. Before I knew it I’d ride father and faster, increasing the distance away from home. It was really a magically time, and I really treasured the time I spent with my father on those fall nights. He was constantly working but he always made time for our bike rides. I feel lucky to have these memories of these evenings to look back on. These times always bring me back on center. I know I was lucky to have him. He sacrificed his life so my gifts can grow, and I known need to pay this back and give tribute to the man he was and the man he knew I had to be.