In 2000 I bought my dad a Harley Sportster. It was low, had everything we liked, straight bar solo seat etc. I knew little then about Sportsters, I did not know there were fools who called them girl bikes etc. I knew 2 things, that it made me happy to see dad that happy. Little kid first trip to Disneyland happy, and that I was hoping it would be the nicest coffin I could buy him. He could barely walk I thought he would wreck and be done with it.

It hurt me to watch him become  a shadow of the man I grew up worshiping. He deserved better….. wait, I deserved better. That however was my frame of mind at the time. I wanted him to die happy, I grew up afraid he’d die alone in a hospital. Dad was an astronaut, rockstar, and a superhero in my eyes. Other people saw their version but for me he was who I wanted to be. (Disregarding the womanizing, meth cooking and all the other things I do not fully realize at the time. Those understandings were for later.)

Three days after I bought it I was on my balcony with Wayne. We were in conversation, and my dad came out to go for a ride. In the next five minutes he knocked her over and had to call me for help. Gingerly I put the girl upright, and started her. Dad stood by checking his gear in anticipation and I could feel his excitement. It bled from him. He had trouble leaving off the curb, and after helping again I joined Wayne back upstairs.

We saw him leave and despite both our admiration for him discussed how feeble he had become physically, taking turns estimating how long before he killed himself on the sportster. We could hear the modified pipes crooning out into he neighborhood as he rode for the joy of it nearby. Then they got louder, he was returning. I thought what now? He’s coming back for some reason is he sick? Is something wrong with the bike?

Then behind my house with the dexterity and grace of a man shot from a cannon he willingly climbed into my dad rode by… On one wheel.

One friggin wheel, he wheelied what looked like 300 yards. He landed it perfectly and then rode off to see my mother in another town. That was my dad. Even wounded he was Evil Friggin Kneivel. I will be honest I would never do that, not from a lack of want but for a fear to follow him. I ride a 1976 iron-head sportster, I have been restoring it since 2005, between being a father cancer, and loosing my career. It has been slow, and when I say restore I really mean rebuild and modify for me. I know what makes those bikes tick now, I know how they are built and what it takes to keep one on the road. I will not be found doing a wheelie in the near future.

About a year later someone made an illegal left turn and hit my dad. I got the call on a Saturday afternoon before heading to work. The sheriff’s called and asked for my wife thinking it was me on the motorcycle, and I am eternally grateful it was I who picked up the phone. Compound fractures, air lift to the hospital… When we arrived there he was in a coma, his fifth one at the time, and honestly I never thought I would see my dad open his eyes again, but he did something that as always no one thought he could do…

He survived. He broke every rib, his skull and multiple leg fractures but he survived… again. Though he never prospered again. While he was there in the hospital all of us said our good byes, because the doctors told us we should, but he survived. He lasted 10 more years, and I am grateful for that time with him.

Later I asked my dad while I was dealing with my cancer how in the hell he was able to survive all of the medical issues he struggled with, how he avoided the grave after how horribly he treated himself? He said “A long time ago it was you kids, someone had to keep getting up I am not perfect but I wasn’t leaving you guys alone.” “Now its fear, I have little faith heavenly gates await me on the other side.”

He wouldn’t explain that to me. In honesty he did not have to. I know that for many people my dad was a villain…. least I do now. For me though he wasn’t a meth dealer or an outlaw etc. For me he was my dad. In my mind there are aspects of him that are still my hero. I wish he had been the person in life I saw him as. Maybe many of the things that we went through would have been different? However trying to rearrange the past us useless, it just makes me miss him more. Instead I try to be the person I thought my father was for my kids. I am not perfect by any means. I stumble all the time.

All of that being said my dad has not been laid to rest, he was cremated but before he died he asked of me a last wish. He wanted his ashes scattered in a particular cove on the coast, and as well he asked that I carry him there on my Harley. That son of a #$%^. I haven’t said good bye yet as I work on the bike. I have had help working on it from some amazing friends. Matt, Walt, Lon, Mike, all of them have either turned a wrench, kept me company, taught me something or hustled resources for me. She is very close, her engine is rebuilt and there are a few things left to make her safe and reliable, but shes close. I am very hopeful that at some point this summer I will be riding through the redwoods on my way to Fort Bragg to say good by to my hero.

Welcome to your last ride Dad… Watch over me.