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At age 74 my father got his first new bicycle

by Steve Giordano
High on Adventure, January 2020


My dad on his new bike
Roy S Giordano, Esq. 1991


  ``Just think how far from the house I can get on this,'' said my Dad on his new bicycle. I haven't seen the same gleam in his eye for years, not since he mastered the art of baking hollow rolls. But that's another story.

    'Twas the day after Christmas, and he thought a half-price mountain bike might be just the thing for his exercise program. He wasn't sure about the 21 gears and four shift knobs, but he liked the way it climbed hills in low, low granny gear. And half off of $750 was a heck of a deal. He's a power hill- walker, and thought the bike was actually easier than walking.

    ``Bikes sure have changed in 60 years,'' he said, as he
remembered the fun and freedom of his boyhood bike treks in the 1920's. His first bike had wooden wheels.

    So he got the bike.

    ``If my 50-year-old son can take up scuba diving, I can surely take up bicycling at the age of 74,'' he said.

    ``Hey Steve,'' said the shop owner, ``Does anyone in your family ever grow up?'' He knows my wife is nursing a broken leg from figure skating.

    ``Nah,'' I answered. ``We always model ourselves on the youngest member of the family, and she's five.''

    Dad took four rides over the next few days, usually alone so he could concentrate on the mechanics of the machine. Not bad for a guy from Southern California riding the winter streets of Bellingham. His smile was bigger each time he rolled back to the house.

    After all of Mom's cautions about traffic on city streets, she got inspired by his enthusiasm. ``Maybe when we get home I can try it out on a flat street,'' she said.

    The bike was to be shipped UPS by the dealer after my folks flew home. Dad called about a week later wondering where the hell the bike was. He'd bought a helmet and tire pump, and his backpack was packed to ride. But no bike. Oops. It hadn't left the shop yet.

    But his real concern was a medical exam he'd undergone that day. His cardiologist gave him a treadmill stress test to check out a heart valve flutter, and told him not to do anything strenuous for a week until they could talk over the results.

    Nothing strenuous meant no biking, no hill walking, no fishing for anything over two pounds and no opening the garage door until he bought an electric garage door opener.

    I told him to find a new doctor, someone who knew about sports cardiology. I get winded trying to keep up with him on walks and remember his endurance on an uphill run a few years back.

    It turns out that his doctor had tried bicycling in Italy last summer and couldn't handle the hills. He doesn't know about mountain bikes, but figured that if he couldn't do it, then Dad shouldn't either.

    One of the clinic's technicians was sympathetic, and said he had a good idea. ``Like getting a new doctor?'' asked Dad. ``No. Nothing like that,'' the tech answered. ``But I've got this friend in radiology who's looking for a mountain bike, and he'll give you $500 for yours.''

    No sale. Dad has more gleam left than to cash in for a short-term profit. But as a compromise, we were to hang on to the boxed-up bike for a week, and send it if and when the doctor said it was ok.

    It was a long week of waiting for the doctor's conference with Dad. The boxed bicycle in the garage was a constant reminder of the frailty of human life, yet also of its enthusiasms and joys.

    He even boxed his bike helmet and pump, ready to return them to the store if the doctor told him to sit in a chair for the rest of his life.

    But it wasn't to be.

    ``You're going to die someday, but it won't be of a heart attack,'' said the doctor after going over all the stress and medical test results. ``Go ahead and ride the damned thing, but take it easy on the hills.''

    We can't send it just yet though. He wants to be home when it gets there. But first he and Mom are out of town to celebrate my grandmother's 94th birthday and then to dig some clams on the Baja Peninsula.

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