This weekend was one of firsts and of letting go. As I posted yesterday, Adam was cleanly shorn for the first time like a sheep in the spring; the golden locks of his cranial fleece sealed in an envelope. Looping gossamer strands of a script narrating a bittersweet tale of separation and transformation for us the read in years to come. Even today though, two days after the haircut Kathleen and I are still looking at him like, “Who are you and what did you do with our baby?” He so far has denied any wrongdoing, but we’re still going to continue the investigation for a couple more days. Perhaps even call in David Caruso to deliver some patented, stilted, uninspired dialogue while he slowly removes his sunglasses.
Yesterday though marked the long overdue dénouement of Jack’s infancy in my mind thus beginning his inevitable march towards adolescence. For weeks I’ve been promising him that I’d take the training wheels off his bike and teach him how to ride a two-wheeler. He was ready a month ago to take his first cautious pedals without the reassuring balance of his training wheels, but I wasn’t ready for what it meant for him to no longer need the help from something that held him up, protected him from falling, and prevented him from getting hurt. I wasn’t ready for him to climb to the edge of the nest, to look over the edge and to leap into the abyss.
Then yesterday, for no reason in particular, I asked him if he wanted to go up to the elementary school to learn to ride a two-wheeler. The school has an enormous playing field with gentle slopes I figured would be good for Jack to get momentum and to cushion his fall when he lost his balance; which I was certain he would.
The school is only half a block away so with a ¼ inch wrench in the pocket of my coat I jogged along side him as he for the last time rode his bike with training wheels up to the school. We found a spot in the grass just off the sidewalk with a gradual downhill that lead out to the center of the field. Jack hopped off his bike and watched excitedly as I loosened the nuts on the extra wheels then took them off and dropped them in the grass. Before helping him onto the bike I said to him, “Don’t worry about falling Jack. Falling should be the furthest thing from your mind. I’ll have the back of your jacket and I won’t let you fall. I’m your training wheels now, OK?” and he nodded and smiled and said, “OK Daddy. I won’t worry. You’ve got me.”
The first time down the hill I did have him and though the handle bars wobbled and his balance was shifted too far to the left we made it half-way across the field, me running next to him with my hand clutching the back of his jacket holding him up, holding him back.
We walked the bike back up to the top of the hill and I helped him back on. “I’m going to try to let you go for a few seconds on this one, OK?” I said to him and to myself as we steadied ourselves for another try. He began to pedal before I was ready and after only a couple of strides I let go of his jacket.
He didn’t fall as he pulled away from me, a lone rider in the late afternoon sun casting a long shadow, a shadow the reached much further than I was ready for it to reach; a shadow that I didn’t quite recognize.
I stopped running after him and stood still as he rode away from me. Just another set of unnecessary training wheels in the grass.
And contrary to everything I have learned about horizon lines, vanishing points and perspective I would have sworn that the further away he got, the bigger he appeared.