Saturday, June 21, 2008

Riding with the Old Man

Its been about two years since my father got into scooters. He's going to be 72 this year and a lot has happened in his life during that time. He started out with a TN'G Venice. A 50cc two stroke buzzer which could hit an amazing 45 mph. Since most 50cc scooters are regulated to go no more than 30 mph, I think that's pretty impressive.

More importantly, his health became a major issue a little over a year ago. He'd had bypass surgery. During last winter he underwent treatment and took the road to recovery.

I've spoken with people who'd had the surgery. They said their lives changed for the better after they healed. No different for my dear father. The fact that the heart is able to pump blood throughout the body more efficiently had far reaching effects. Before that surgery, he'd been forgetful. Lost his train of thought easily. Sometimes he did things which honestly, scared me.

After the surgery his doctor made it clear he needed to eat healthier. He listened. He's very careful about what he eats and when. The difference in his demeanor and cognitive skills have definitely increased. I can speak of this now because even he expresses the difference in how he looked at life then compared to now. He's calmer too. But there may be another aspect of his life now which influences his peace of mind. He's got a girlfriend. A sweet lady who very much reminds me of my deceased mother. A sweet woman with a spitfire attitude just below the surface. I think it keeps him on his toes.

Helen owns a little over twenty acres a good distance from our city. You take the road out of town and when you think you're pretty much in the sticks you take another right. About the time the woods on either side of the weathered two-lane begin to encroach the road, there's a house set back off the way a bit. A warm ranch home under ancient oaks. A sixties era Ford pickup off the side of the driveway, waiting for someone to restore it. Still runs, I'm told.

It was the other night that I called my dad to see if he was interested in riding on one of the first truly warm evenings we've experienced this year. When I called he was at Helen's. They were just finishing a late supper.

"Hi Dad, its me. Are ya busy?"
"Hi son, we're just finishing up here. Why? Were you thinking of going for a ride?"
"Well it sounds like you're busy. There'll be other times."
"No, no. That's fine if you want to ride a little later. We can go."
"No, I don't want to interrupt. In fact I already have. Sorry 'bout that... I'll talk to you later."
"Hang on a minute..."

(Dad talks it over with Helen. All I hear are muffled voices.)

"Tell you what; I'll come by and we decide what we want to do from there. How's that sound?"
"Oh my gosh, Dad, no that's fine we can do it another time."
"No no, son. Let's play it by ear, ok?"
"Ok, I'll see you when you get here then."

Soon enough I heard his Genuine Buddy rolling up my driveway. Big old smile on his face. We talk about where we want to go and he mentions I should see Helen's place. That set the plan. We were off and down the road, back to Helen's.

Now I've ridden shorter distances with my dad this season. But you really can't tell a person's skills as well as when they're on the road for longer periods of time. This ride would be a lot of different types of roads. From clogged city streets to a stretch of 55 mph state highway to worn out country asphalt.

We "packed it in and rode it hard" as they say. I led until we got to that right turn onto the This-Really-Leads-Nowhere road.

While he led, I thought about what a change its been riding with him this year. How I felt assured about his position in the lane. How his eyes looked forward. I could see him scanning oncoming intersections and watching his mirrors. It wasn't just experience in the saddle, although that has as much to do with it as anything. It was the first timemy dad really looked like he anticipated potential threats instead of me wondering if he would have enough time to react to them.

We arrived and I had the honor of seeing Helen's slice of heaven. Truly it is. A widow, a daughter of farmers, this lady has a garden the size of my front yard. She's got an orchard, two barns and whatever it is they call it when you plant grapes the way they're supposed to be planted. And that only comprises a bit more than the extent of most peoples' suburban yards.

We talked and laughed and simply enjoyed each other's company for a while. Then it was time to head on home. The skies had grown dark. Stars awoke to begin their twilight watch over us.

The ride up was as good as the ride down. Much as experience teaches us, I also know that health and nutrition play a part in being the consumate rider. So does getting enough sleep.

I need to remember these things. That plan fomenting inside my helmet about riding the shores of Lake Michigan and the Great River Road (Highway 35) next month, demands that I come home safely.

Forever the roadbum...