In the custom motorcycle industry, the word hero gets thrown around a lot. Though many builders, both past and present, have influenced me, I only have one hero: my father.
My dad married my mother at a young age (19 and 17, respectively) and this month they celebrate 50 years together. At the ripe age of 29 he was the youngest manager in the Autonetics division at Rockwell International, at the time one of the company's largest divisions. My father worked hard, with 10 to 14 hour workdays being the norm. Even in the early '70s having a stay-at-home wife ("housewife" in those days) and three children at home, being the sole breadwinner was a chore, but he sucked it up and did if for us. As hard as my dad worked, he played even harder. Hunting, drinking, riding, and all the other manly shit the mustached men of the day did was the weekend's norm. That was until one fateful day in 1973 when my father was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident.
After a six-month hospital stay in a body cast, he came home to us a paraplegic bound to a wheelchair for life with a wife who had no work experience and some rather needy children. He had to learn to do just about everything over while dragging half his body behind him. Mind you this was long before the Disability Rights movement and every sidewalk and business was mandated to have a ramp. Hell, there were little to no handicapped parking spots out in front of the supermarket or anywhere else for that matter.
All that aside, he has always been a very independent man and still is even though the old bird is reaching toward the big seven-zero. In all those years since his accident, I never heard my dad complain once about it. I am sure he had his moments in private, but he has taken an almost 40-year-old condition in stride and just does his thing. By growing up in his shadow, my father has shown me that patience, self-respect, and pride are key factors in life, but he also has shown me that a little piss and vinegar added to the mix make the wheels turn a lot more freely. All these things make my father a hero, but mostly my father is my hero for the courage he has shown to openly accept and encourage his only son, who now has a family of his own, do the one thing that so sharply turned his own life upside-down forever: ride a motorcycle. And for that, I love you Dad.