There are certain points in a young boy’s life that makes him feel “grown up” whether he really is or not. One of these points, at least in the old days, was assuredly that day when he graduates from tricycle to bicycle. Mine was that for more than one reason.
I assume that I was awarded my first bicycle complete with training wheels on my birthday or Christmas, I know not which, but the weekend thereafter I went to my grandparents’ house. I was so proud to show off my new bicycle.
Now for those of you mature enough (let’s not use “old”; let’s call it ‘mature enough’) to remember Harvey Greene, Sr. you know that he had all the shyness, tact and discretion of… say, a rusty barb wire fence. (Glad I didn’t inherit any of that.) If he felt something, he said it. And however it initially formed in his mind was the exact way that it came out of his mouth.
When I arrived at their house that weekend, full of pride and grown-up-ness, the first words from my grandfather’s mouth was, “It’s got sissy wheels on it. Ain’t no grandson of mine gonna ride a bike with sissy wheels.” And much to the disdain of both me and my grandmother, he commenced to remove the training wheels from my bike.
I was crying; my grandmother was fussing; and my grandfather was ignoring us both. His only words heard over the sounds of his wrench were, “Ain’t no grandson of mine gonna ride with sissy wheels.”
His task completed, he gave me back my bicycle, sans training wheels. I was still crying and saying that I couldn’t ride it like that. His reply was simple, “Well, let’s fix that.”
The next few hours are a blur in my memory today. But what I do remember was me and my grandfather in the long driveway in front of his house. I would go a few feet and fall down. He would pick me up, somewhat dust me off, but not really, and put me back on the bike. Time and again, I would cry that I couldn’t ride it without the training wheels. Each time, he would ignore my pleas, put me back on the bike, and push me off. Over and over – push, fall down, pick up, push, fall down, pick up, push. Rinse and repeat. I don’t know how long we were out there, it seemed forever to a small child, but at some point I no longer fell when he pushed me. I had learned how to ride a bike.
I know not what work he was ignoring that day, but his sole focus seemed to be me. He stayed by my side for as long as it took me to accomplish the task, always right there to pick me up and put me back on the bike. That day he was my Grandfather and nothing else.
So many times in life we are presented with trials and tribulations that seem daunting and beyond our ability to overcome. I’ll always wonder if what really bothered him was the ‘sissy wheels’ themselves, or the fact that I said I couldn’t ride without them. But whatever it was, he showed me that things can be overcome with the right attitude and perseverance. And sometimes the caring hands of someone who is willing to spend a little of their time to pick you up and push you forward.
Think about it.