slobber and a motorcycle

My parents are visiting from out of town. We are running errands. They don’t know Salt Lake City very well, so I’m playing chauffeur. Mom is in the back seat, Dad is in the front passenger seat- and it’s not because he’s not a gentleman.  

Saliva is oozing down his chin. With the same gesture that swats away a mosquito, he wipes it away with a napkin.  His hair is disheveled. There are a few crumbs on his shirt from lunch.  

As a young man, my Dad had it all: He was most handsome guy in his high school, a brown belt in Karate, the captain of the ROTC rifle team, a college scholarship, a beautiful girlfriend, and had the world by the tail. When he was 21, he suffered a motorcycle accident that should have killed him. Though he scarcely survived, he was left permanently disabled. For those who know his story, he’s a bit of a hero. Dad’s disability gave additional dimension to our conservative mormon family culture:  

We didn’t say the word “sex” in our home. 

We never spoke ill of the Prophets. 

We never took The Lord’s name in vain, but most of all, 

We never even thought the phrase,

“I want a motorcycle”. 

To even contemplate a motorcycle would be to defile every miracle, every sacrifice, every shred of faith that our family was built on. 

As he’s aged, some of the injuries from his accident are making a creeping return. His decreasing flexibility and returning paralysis make the front seat the only viable option. 

As a younger man, he’d insist that my mother have the best seat. 

Today, my mother will have it no other way – his comfort comes before hers. 

We pull up to a stoplight. A biker on a noisy Harley is next to us in the left turn lane. 

“Po-ta-to-po-ta-to-po-ta-to….” 

The Harley rumbles our guts. 

Dad looks over at the rider.

His face lights up with a knowing grin,

He nods once, slowly and deliberately, as if to say, 

‘If I could get on that bike right now and ride off into the distance, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m afraid of nothing, I regret nothing.’

A light switch flips in my soul. 

I know with a simple certainty that someday, 

I will get a motorcycle. 

I will learn to repair and ride it well. 

I will take my podcast on the road on my bike. 

I will make my Dad proud. 

I don’t know when, or where, or on what bike, but it’s obvious that I will. 

I don’t speak a word of this. 

The light turns green and we pull into the Walmart parking lot to get our groceries. 

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