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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

    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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