In this draft I tried to ruthlessly cut out unnecessary but dearly loved parts of the narrative. Scroll backward to experience this momentous journey from the beginning. Don’t even talk to me about formatting errors. I’m not sure if I am willing to call this my final draft. Final draft seems so…final.
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 a pile and fume about it. My bike was laying in a heap on the side of the road, one training wheel spinning lazily.
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 them. We had even tried taking one wheel off and having me ride side-car style 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.
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 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. 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.
“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? 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.
“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.”
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 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, me not trying, him pushing, me falling, me crying. Bike drama. Finally, he yelled at me, “Come on, get up right now, no more crying. I’m trying to help you.”
That made me mad. 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 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 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 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 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. The smile on his face was gigantic. “Come on Dad, help me again!” I was beaming.
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. Eventually, I got to the point where I could stop and start without falling or needing anyone to help me. 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.