Draft 2.5: More Internal Story
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It was a typical overcast summer day in Petersburg, Alaska when I was sitting on my front porch sulking. I wanted to learn to ride my bike without training wheels but had decided it was impossible and that I would never learn. I was feeling sorry for myself, angry at the world and so filled with frustration that I just wanted to sit in pile and fume about it. My bike was laying in a heap on the side of the road, one training wheel spinning lazily. It was red and had a big banana seat and tall handlebars. It used to have tassels but they had been shredded by use and crashes. It was summer and the road was dry. Even the mud puddles were empty.
I had tried and tried to ride my bike without training wheels. My mom had tried to help me, but I just couldn’t seem to find my balance without training wheels. She wasn’t a very fast runner and couldn’t push me far enough or fast enough to get me going. She got frustrated with me easily and would yell at me when I didn’t ride the bike right. That made me mad and I would yell back. She was also busy and didn’t have the time to take the training wheels off all the time the way I wanted. This made me mad. It seemed like she was always busy with other things. She didn’t see that me learning to ride without training wheels was the most important issue of the summer. We had even tried taking one wheel off and having me ride without training wheels but even that didn’t work. It was hopeless. I was a lost cause. My head hung down whenever I looked at my bike or saw the other kids in the neighborhood riding by on their training-wheel-free bikes. My little brother, who was only riding a trike, would try to give me advice and I would just yell at him, “Shut up, Daniel, you don’t even know. You only know how to ride a trike. Leave me alone!” He would quickly ride away on his trike, trying to get away from his mean big sister. Sometimes I even just rode his trike so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the bike problems.
As I sat on the porch, feeling completely hopeless, my dad drove up. That was strange. He was home early. Usually when he got home it was late and he was tired. He was always fishing or working all the fishing gear or unloading or ten thousand other things he had to do. In the summer he never had any free time at all. He got out of the car and walked over to me. That was really strange. He was usually thinking about other things besides us kids. He walked over and said, “Whatsamatter, Lat?” Again, strange. He didn’t even yell at me about leaving my bike laying in the middle of the street! I didn’t think he ever noticed when things were wrong with me or I was feeling bad.
“I can’t ride my bike without training wheels and training wheels are for babies. I hate my stupid bike and I hate stupid training wheels. And stupid Daniel keeps telling me what to do and he doesn’t even know how to ride a bike. It’s so stupid,” I said in one giant breath, the words streaming out of my mouth in an angry jumble. I was so mad.
“Hmmm. Well, let’s see if I can help with that.” Hugely strange! My dad? Help me with something as small and unimportant as riding a bike? What was going on here? Why wasn’t he mumbling about money or nets or the price of fish? He walked to the garage and got a screwdriver. He took off the training wheels and picked the bike up off the ground. “Ok, get on,” he said.
“Dad, I can’t. It’s too hard. I can’t do it without training wheels,” I whined. Didn’t he get it? I couldn’t do it!
“Lat, I’m gonna help you. Come on, get on the bike,” he coaxed. I sighed and walked over to the bike. I slumped onto it. I knew this was not going to work. I grabbed the handlebars but my whole body had an attitude that said, “This is stupid. I can’t do it.” I thought I knew it wouldn’t work.
My dad started to push me and help me balance at the same time. The pedals started to turn. I barely pushed them at all. I was being deliberately lazy. I let him do all the work. He pushed me one last time and stopped running, the bike toppled over and I fell. “See! I can’t do it!” I screamed at him. Tears were streaming down my face and I was laying in the dirt sobbing.
“Get up. You can do it. Get up,” my dad said in a firm voice. “You’ve got to try.” The same scene played out a few more times. I fell and fell and fell. Finally, he yelled at me, “Come on, get up right now, no more crying. I’m trying to help you.”
That made me mad. He was such a jerk and a pig. How come he was yelling at me? It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t ride the bike. The bike was stupid. It wasn’t my fault. I was going to show him how impossible it was. This was so dumb! This time when he pushed me I actually tried to pedal and steer. I was going to show him that even if I tried hard it was an impossible task. I pedaled and tried to balance. “See Dad, look how wobbly I am! See! I can’t do it! I told you! I can’t do it by myself!”
At that moment, his voice came to me from impossibly far away. I was still upright. I was riding the bike! I was still pedaling. I had not fallen. “You are! You are doing it! You’re riding, Lat!” He had let go. I was riding all by myself, with no training wheels! I couldn’t believe it! I turned my head to look back and see how far away he was and instantly lost control of the bike and crashed. I didn’t care though. I didn’t even care. I bounced back up. “I did it! Dad! I did it! I rode it without training wheels!” I picked the bike up and turned it around and ran with it back down the road to where my dad was standing. I could tell he was proud. The smile on his face was gigantic. “Come on Dad, help me again!”
After a few more pushes and a few more crashes, I got to the point that day where I could ride to the end of the street without crashing. It seemed like I learned fast, but really it was probably hours that we stayed out there. Eventually, I got to the point where I could stop and start without falling or needing anyone to help me. It was one of the best days I ever had with my dad. As an adult, I can look back at this moment and see that this was just the beginning of a long string of lessons like this one. My dad helped me see that when I get stubborn and angry and believe I cannot do something, I can’t. If I am willing to accept help and try hard, I can do things I thought were impossible. The training wheels were only the beginning.