May 1st, 1973 & 2013: This is the second of two blogs on dad today. These are the final two incidents that I can remember taking place in April. The month I did not write in my original diary. One incident involves a new bicycle. The other, mowing the lawn. The chronological order of the April incidents I've blogged about has proven to be a bit jumbled.
I'm almost certain I had a new bike well before May 1st. I can remember riding it back and forth from our house to visit dad in the hospital earlier than this. I'd go visit dad alone. Mom was at the store until five. I'd ride home from school, then ride back to the hospital to visit dad.
Visiting dad in the hospital made me feel grown up. It was role reversal. I was looking after him. Not him looking after me, like he had when I'd been in the hospital a couple of times. If only it were as simple as a broken bone for him. He watched me get better. I watched him die.
The new bike came about like this. Dad had lost his Schwinn franchise a year or two before, when he couldn't meet Schwinn's unreasonable demands to build a separate shop and be able to sell "x amount" of bikes in such a small town.
We'd picked up the Huffy line. Good bikes, but no Schwinn. I wanted a Schwinn. A Continental model, in the "opaque blue" color. However, It wouldn't look good for the son of the guy who sells Huffys to be riding around on a Schwinn.
Dad was in pretty bad condition. Not totally "with it" in his mind anymore. Very weak in general. By no means did I want to exploit his condition, but I wanted that bike. Mom suggested I approach him.
One day, I tip-toed up to the right side of the bed where he was resting. I think mom was with me too. I don't remember word for word, but he granted me permission to buy the bike. There wasn't even a discussion. He just said "yes," or "o.k." I was surprised. He'd never been a pushover before. And this could have an affect on bicycle sales at the store. I thanked him.
I was happy, but not excited, or gloating. In some ways, I almost felt like I'd taken advantage of him. "Put one over on him." I felt a little guilty.
I'd hung a leather tool kit bag from the front handlebars. It was big enough to accommodate a radio. In an early blog, I talked of how popular Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" was. Late winter had moved to spring. The unavoidable song on the radio at this time was "Stuck in the Middle With You," by Stealer's Wheel.
The last vivid memory of April involved the riding lawnmower. I'd been handling the mowing chores for a couple of years or more by this time. When I was younger, dad would sit on the rider, I'd stand on the rear fenders, hold his shoulders, and mow with him. Only a low tree branch would force me to bail off.
Mowing season had arrived. This might have been the first one of the year. The lawnmower was sitting in the breezeway, I was filling it with gas and getting it ready. Dad was actually out of bed, skinny as a rail, in his robe, and out on the breezeway with mom, watching me prepare to mow.
"Did you check the oil in that?" he asked me. "Yeah," I answered. His gaze didn't leave me. I looked at him, then looked away. He knew I was lying. I knew I was lying. I have forgotten what he said, but it wasn't pleasant. The look he gave me, the words he spoke, said I was going to have to man up and be a lot more responsible around the house.
Dad detested liars. This was likely the last time in my life I got "the look," and an "ass chewing" from him.