Don had been looking forward to this day.
It was his son’s sixth birthday, and he and his wife Molly had gotten Donnie Jr. a new bike for his birthday.
Donnie had started with a tricycle a couple of years back, and had since graduated to training wheels. Don had been raising the training wheels, and he was noticing that Donnie didn’t really need them anymore.
If anything, they were just a psychological comfort to Donnie, knowing they were there to keep him from falling. But Don knew that Donnie could ride without them.
Donnie had outgrown his old bike anyway, so Molly had suggested that they get him a new bike for his birthday. One without training wheels.
Don had put the bike together the night before, after Donnie had gone to sleep. He was surprised that he actually broke a sweat just from putting it together. They hid it under a tarp in the backyard where they could pull it out at present time. And it was almost present time now.
Molly called the kids over, and Donnie had fun opening the different gifts from friends (“Hot Wheels, awesome!”) and family (“A jacket… thanks Auntie”).
When Donnie opened the last of the gifts, Don said, “I think we have one more gift for you, buddy.”
He pulled off the tarp and wheeled the bike out for Donnie to see. Donnie jumped up, ecstatic to see a new, bigger bike, with red and blue pedals and a Spiderman helmet dangling from the handlebars.
“Can I ride it right now?” asked Donnie. Don was about to say yes, when he noticed Donnie’s countenance change. He followed Donnie’s gaze to the back tire.
“There’s no training wheels… I don’t know how to ride without training wheels,” lamented Donnie.
Don knelt down next to Donnie. He had to catch himself with his hand as he squatted. “Donnie, I’ve watched you ride your old bike. For the past month, your training wheels haven’t touched the ground once. You’ve been riding without training wheels for a month and you didn’t even know it!”
Donnie thought about that for a moment. “But this bike is bigger — how do I know I won’t fall?”
“I’ll run alongside you as you ride. I’ll make sure you don’t fall,” said Don. “I’ll tell you what — why don’t you finish playing with your friends before they have to go, and we’ll take the bike out after the party. Sound good?”
“Okay,” agreed Donnie. “Thanks Dad.”
Donnie ran over to his pile of presents and started playing with his new toys. Don grunted as he stood up. Molly came over to Don.
“Is he okay?” Molly asked.
“Yeah, he’ll be fine. Just a little nervous about riding without training wheels. I told him we can try after the party,” replied Don.
After the guests left, and most of the trash was cleaned up, Don turned to his son.
“Are you ready to try out your new bike?”
“I guess so.” Donnie could see how excited his dad was. And he really did want to ride his new bike, it just made him a little nervous. Everyone has to learn sometime, he thought. It did help knowing his dad would be right there.
This was the part Don had been looking forward to. Even more than seeing his reaction at getting the bike, he wanted to see his son ride without training wheels. As he wheeled the bike out to the sidewalk, he handed the new helmet to Donnie.
“Okay buddy, the trickiest part of riding without training wheels is starting and stopping. The actual riding part is the same as what you’ve been doing for the past month. When you get on your bike, let it lean a little to one side and keep your foot on the ground like a kickstand. Now, instead of the training wheels holding the bike up, it’s you. Here, try that.”
Don helped hold the bike as Donnie positioned himself.
“Do you feel how you are holding the bike up? I’m going to let go so you can try it without me. See? You got this, no problem.”
“Now what? How do I start going without falling over?” Donnie asked.
“Put your other foot on the pedal and push down. Push forward with your kickstand leg at the same time, then bring that foot up and start pedaling. That’s it. I’ll help give you a little shove this first time, and I’ll run alongside you.”
“Okay,” Donnie said hesitantly.
“You can do it. I’ll count to three. Ready? One, two, three!” Don shoved and Donnie picked his foot up. Donnie jerked the handlebars to keep his balance but he started pedaling.
“You’re doing it buddy! I’m right behind you!” Don yelled as his son started pulling away from him. Don was trying hard to keep up, but his lungs weren’t cooperating. He was breathing heavily, and he paused and leaned on a fence. He looked up and saw that Donnie was approaching the street corner.
“Donnie-” he tried to yell after his son, but he kept gasping for air. Don knew that he had put on a few pounds recently, but he usually thinks of himself as being in decent shape. This was frustrating for him.
Donnie noticed his dad wasn’t behind him anymore, and decided to stop. But then he realized he had never stopped without training wheels. He slowed down the bike, and felt it wobble. He felt it falling to the side, and as the bike fell to the ground, so did he.
Don pushed himself and jogged over to his son. Much slower than he wanted to go.
“Donnie,” he gasped in between breaths, “I’m so –sorry. I should have —been there –to catch you. —Are you okay?”
Donnie was a little shaken up, but he looked at his knees and elbows. Definitely some scrapes and a little blood, but he had had worse. Last year he was playing on the playground and he fell through the jungle gym and caught his ankle, wrenching it as he fell. This didn’t hurt as bad as that did.
“I’m okay,” replied Donnie.
Don’s dream of seeing his son ride a bike came true, but it ended poorly because he had let himself get out of shape. The memory that was supposed to be happy became bittersweet. Don resolved to start making healthy choices so that he will always be able to catch his son in the future.
It takes determination to stay healthy, but it is definitely worth it.
You may not care about yourself or your own appearance, but you should still care about your health. If not for you, then be healthy for the people you care about.
Here are three things you can do today to get yourself on track:
Don’t be like Don — start making healthy changes today. Be healthy for others: your spouse, your children, and your family.
Who do you want to be healthy for?