Please welcome Brian White– a dear friend of mine for over 23 years. He has always been a writer, but is not yet a blogger, so please leave him an abundance of feedback, and love.
I remember clearly the time I looked down the road and saw my father’s Harley flipping through the air. My body was rolling recklessly down the two lane road, behind the motorcycle. I was unconscious for a moment from my helmet smashing into the pavement. As I came to, my roll turned into a frantic run, paying no attention to the cars or the rest of the world going on around me. This was the scene mid-accident, when I laid down my father’s Harley at 70 MPH.
I had just graduated high school and was on my way to work from my girlfriend’s house. I didn’t feel like going to work, so I stayed at Christina’s house a little longer than I should have. This wasn’t an issue, I thought, because I had the “steel horse” to get me to work on time. Riding Dad’s Harley down that country road felt absolutely amazing! I didn’t have a care in the world; I was invincible! At least I thought I was.
Great weather, dry roads, and speed were all I needed to get to work on time. With the ease of a professional rider, I flew past cars on that two lane road. I came quickly upon a furniture moving truck and changed lanes; this is where my ability ran out. There was an oncoming car, and I did not feel as though I had time to get by the truck. I applied both brakes, and that is when it happened. I locked up the rear tire, and down I went.
I was extremely lucky this day. The oncoming car somehow stopped short of running me over. The drivers in the furniture truck saw me go down in the rear view mirror and decided to turn around and come back to check on me. Both people in the furniture truck were reserve firefighters. The driver of the oncoming car was an EMT who had just finished her shift (stethoscope still around her neck). As I tried lifting the bike up off the pavement, adrenaline flowing, the woman kept yelling at me to sit down. I told her not to worry about me; I needed to get my father’s bike out of the road. It wasn’t until she yelled at me and told me she was an EMT that I decided to listen up and sit down. A few cars back was a LinCare van full of medical supplies. Right there on the side of the road, the firefighters and EMT cleaned up my cuts and bloodied hands as well as all the road rash. Someone, somewhere, was watching over me that day.
By the time the ambulance arrived, I was cleaned and bandaged up. I remember being scared to death that if there was a medical record of the accident, I would not be able to leave for Basic Training the next month. The crew of the ambulance felt that since the bike had gone about 150 yards down the road and I went over half that distance too, I should take the ambulance to the hospital. Because of my fear of not leaving for the Air Force and the fact I was already bandaged up, I decided to sign the waiver, refusing the ambulance ride.
As I sat and waited for my dad to get there with a trailer, I thought about all the horrible things he was going to say to me because of my irresponsible choices. I thought of what would come of my chances in the Air Force if I were severely hurt. I worried about the devastation my mother would feel when she found out. But mainly, I began to get angry at the thought of my father being upset with me. My father was a severe alcoholic who, at that time, felt he cared about nothing except getting drunk, women, and that Harley. As I sat there, I thought of all the wrongs he had done and knew this was going to be my opportunity to tell him how I felt. This was my chance to prove to him what I had been saying all along and express my anger and disappointment toward him. In retrospect, it never ceases to amaze me how I allowed (and still do) things to build up in my head.
I could not have been more wrong; he only cared that I was ok.
He did not mention that old Shovelhead one time.
For several minutes he asked me if I was okay and even cried at the thought that I could have been hurt. He helped me get the bike loaded onto the trailer. It was during this moment in time that I finally understood his love for me. He didn’t care whether what I had done was right or wrong; he loved me unconditionally. Even though the accident physically hurt me and the bike had to be fixed, it was a memory of my father’s love I will never forget.
He has passed on from this life. I got the phone call at about 9:30 in the morning on April 15, 2011. Debbie, the high school secretary, called me and said, “Brian, your dad is dead.” At that moment, I had a million things go through my head and was in complete disbelief at first. Within moments I thought about all the things, good and bad, we had been through together. My memories were flooded with thoughts surrounding the old Shovelhead Harley, my accident being what stood out most. Also, the fact that the motorcycle had become a symbol of unconditional love.
I rode that bike to Dad’s funeral.
It was a physical representation to everyone of his love for me. I still have that old Shovelhead Harley that he taught me to ride when I was a kid. I took my endorsement test on it when I got my license. It sits in my garage, scraped up brake lever and all, as a constant reminder of his love for me. He taught me a lesson I will never forget that day, and whenever possible, I share that story of love with people around me.
My brothers in my motorcycle club have named me Shovel because of what the old Harley means to me. They named me Shovel because I try hard to pass on that fatherly love by dropping anything to help people in need, just like my dad did the day of my accident.
What started as a hard lesson and a “lucky break” when I wrecked Dad’s bike has become a memory of a father’s unconditional love for his son.