I asked my sister what death meant. She said it was like
lying down and not ever getting up. My dad was napping on the couch at the time
holding a can of Old Style on his belly. I asked my sister if he was dead.
I did not understand.
I got my first bike on Christmas. It was probably 1972. It
was very patriotic. Red, white, and blue with a banana seat. It was just like
Peter Fonda's chopper in Easy Rider. Only it was for a four year old. I don't
think there was any coke in the handle bars. That bike would be cool now. Dad
put some training wheels on it so I could get the hang of riding a big person's
I practiced and practiced with the training wheels. Soon, I
insisted I was ready to get those "sissy wheels" off and ride like the big kids.
Dad took them off. He kept the bike balanced as I got on nervously staring down
the long sidewalk. I was up so high and the pavement looked so far away from me.
So dangerous. I had already broken my shoulder twice. Off in the distant, there
was the big world. The Sunoco station. Paul Winger's house.
I was scared but dad was right there. Nothing bad would
happen. Dad gave me a shove and off I went out into the big old world that day.
I was only four at the time and I had no idea that was how he was going to leave
me. On a wobbly bike heading down the sidewalk.
A month later I knew what death meant. It meant that we
could actually use that front room with the nice furniture. It meant well
dressed men would visit and sit with us in that front room. They told me that
dad had gone to a better place. I was happy for dad and I didn't understand why
all the big people were crying. I begged them to stop. I did not understand
until I was there out on the oh so very green grass under the oh so very blue
skies with the oh so white clouds passing over us. Soldiers shot at them. The
clouds were not wounded. They moved on. We are powerless to stop them.
The training wheels were off for good.