I remember, when I was young and I wanted a mini bike. My parents stated, coldly, that they would not contribute dime-one to the endeavour. I balked. I was young and ignorant.
Why couldn’t they be like a lot of other parents, in our working-class neighbourhood, and buy it for me? I did just about everything I could to get that first bike. Lawns were mowed, fences painted under an unforgiving sun, cars washed and re-washed.
Finally, when I had sufficient funds to buy it, I was informed that they were to be provided with the sales brochure. They would consider the specification of the machine and in due course, if it passed muster, I could spend my money to get it. I balked. I was young and ignorant.
Successive subsequent purchases, as I slowly progressed up the performance ladder, met with the same procedure. I balked. I was young and ignorant.
I was blessed, unappreciated by me at the time, with two fathers. My first passed away when I was quite young. The second came into my life when I was a teen. Eager to bond with me on any level, and knowing that I shunned his love of sports (bikes were my main passion), he’d ask my opinion on a particular bike he’d seen on the way home. It was painfully evident how hard he was trying, but man, he still got the names wrong (though I knew what he meant). He’d inquire as to how the ride I just got in from had gone, how far off did I go? I mumbled something in passing and walked off to more important matters in my room. I was young and ignorant.
Possessing vast reserves of patience, my father would labor quietly on his many woodworking projects in our crowded garage. Tempers occasionally flared at such times as when he discovered one of his prized files had been reduced to scrap after I had, cruelly, taken it to a flywheel I was modifying. I was young and ignorant.
My lamentable painting ‘skills’ were responsible, on more than one occasion, for a fine dusting of colour on every surface of every object in that small, cramped space. Changing a clutch on a buddy’s YZ80 resulted in a glaring blemish on dad’s new driveway when I failed to notice the oil leaking out the other side of the bike until it was too late. I was young and ignorant.
Chuffed that my new CZ400 could hit the hydro wires, in the field out back of our house, with a rooster tail. I called dad over to the hedge, lined the CZ up in a sizeable bog and ‘dropped the hammer’. Looking over my shoulder I caught a glimpse of the mud parting the grass, parting the hedge, heading straight for dad. I kept on going when the 400 finally found traction. I didn’t look back. I stayed out long enough that dad might have sufficient time to cool down. I was young and ignorant.
Certain winters would see me waiting for dad to be in a particularly good mood. I’d slip past with a part of my KZ1000MK II tucked under my arm. In short order the entire bike would be assembled in my bedroom for a quiet winter nap. I thought I was so sly. I was young and ignorant.
I went on an extended solo tour of the Maritimes, the rest of Canada, the U.S. west coast to L.A. and back, three months in all. I’d phone home infrequently. I kept the calls short. I spoke in clipped sentences. I had places to go, things to do. I was young and ignorant.
I got one of the first generation Katana 1100’s. I still had the MK II and was also taken with a Honda MB5. Hey, living at home has its financial perks I could save like crazy!
Dad protested faintly but didn’t complain too loudly that I had commandeered his garage.
And then he was gone.
What I failed to grasp, in the thick fog of my ignorance, were the important lessons my dad had passed on to me. I was oblivious of them until much later.
Looking back, I realize that all of the bikes my friends had that their folks had bought for them were the rattiest machines in the neighbourhood. They didn’t sweat to buy them with their own money, so had little emotion in their slow demise. I learned the value of a dollar. I learned to work in an orderly fashion, using the proper tools, not to rush a job. I learned that it takes a real emotional attachment for a father to stand in gathering darkness, at trail’s head, calling out as his son nurses a failing SL70 that last short distance home. Moreover, given as I was strapped for finances back in those early years (man, I wish that had changed) taking the bikes to any of the local shops, when they invariably broke, was out of the question. I taught myself mechanics. I repaired my own bikes and those of my likewise penniless friends, a trade that puts food on the table for my family today.
I’d like to say that not a day goes by I don’t think of my dad, that I am become a man of deep sentiment. That wouldn’t be entirely true. Life steps in and things go unsaid, your thoughts get pulled in a thousand different directions.My situation doesn’t allow pause for such things with any appreciable regularity.
But, I do think of dad often. I think of how a man who had little in common with a brooding, sullen, bike-mad teenager, took the time to become a fundamental part in a life-long passion I have for motorcycles. I remember how, on finding out that I had quietly slipped back into my bedroom in the darkness of an early September morning returned from my three month tour, he burst into the room and almost broke one of my ribs, he held me so tightly. I think of what I would say to him, if given the chance, I could shed my ignorance, even momentarily, and appreciate just what he did for me.
But that’s not how things work, is it?
So, thanks dad. I’m still riding. This weekend’s run was epic. I’d tell you all about it, but then, you were right there with me weren’t you?
We were together, again, the entire day.