I noticed an older man teaching a young girl how to ride her bike on the walking trail yesterday. He firmly held the seat, the other hand gently on her back, while she peddled. She could not comprehend the up-down peddling motion and how to center her torso to stay upright. He gave it all he had.
When my father and his new girlfriend bought my sisters and me new red bikes one Christmas, I don't remember him behind me, one had placed firmly on the bike the other gently on my back. I remember peddling, feet slipping, chain burns, stubbed fingers, frustration. I was learning to ride a bike the best way I knew how, through practice.
The day is burned into my memory because I knew what he was doing. He was preparing his triple daughters for a world without him. He was doing what a man with conflicting views about family life, love, and commitment does; he watched from a distance.
I learned to fly that day. I learned to steady my center, focus my attention, and ride the line. I learned that in this life the most significant lessons come from what you learn on your own, lessons learned through practice, trial-and-error. My father provided the vehicle for exploration.