That Which Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

We went off today on a seemingly innocuous bike trip to a local park. The park is about 6 miles away, and as a round trip, it was a reasonable ride for my boys, especially since they haven’t been out much this year. When you get to the park, there is a fairly steep windy trail from the bike path down into the park. It’s a good 50 feet of elevation, and the path winds back and forth like a mountain switchback road. And off the one side of the trail is a fairly steep drop down to a wooded tree line.

So I lead the pack down the trail, followed by my older son, followed by Evel Knievel. Evel manages the first turn and heads into turn two, toward the drop off. At this point he’s sporting no brakes, no common sense, and a perverse lack of respect for the laws of physics. I glance back just in time to see him kick out of turn two and vanish from sight over the drop off. I don’t hear a sound, not a crash, not a scream, nothing.

I drop my bike and run back along the tree line toward where he vanished. I’m calling to him. I don’t see a thing. I can’t hear anything except my older son running behind me muttering, “This can’t be good.” Finally I come to a break in the brush at the tree line. Just in the woods I can see his bike, so I run toward it. As I get closer, it’s apparent he’s under the bike. His eyes are open, but still not a sound. But the good news is that he also does not appear to be in any anatomically improbable positions.

I pull the bike out and he begins to get up, always a good sign. And further assessment says he seems to be fine except a few decent scrapes on his legs and a grass stain on a favorite shirt. Well that’s a relief. We head to a nearby picnic table to pull ourselves together a bit. I grab an ice pack from my cooler and he puts it on his scraped leg. I comment that it’s a good thing he had his helmet on. He snaps back that he didn’t hit his head!! “Oh,” I say as I pick dirt and plants from the helmet vents and run my fingers over the fresh scratches.

But now for the big test. We’re still six miles from home. A point he’s apparently pondering as he asks how we’re going to get there now. So I ask if he thinks he can ride. He’s not too sure, but I point out that he’s not limping when he walks. The skin is tender, but beyond that he seems fine. He’s thinking about it. I assure him that we’ll take it at his pace, and we can stop if we need to. Effecting a rescue isn’t going to be any harder or easier at any point between here and home.

I wasn’t really sure what the outcome was going to be. To his credit, he decided he was going to try. And darned if he didn’t make it all the way back. I was really proud of him. It would have been easy to have bagged it at that point and just refused to try. But he sucked it up, got back on the horse, and played through the pain. He may not think so right now, but he got a lot stronger today.

I’m taking the assist on that as my Father’s Day gift.

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