Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mt. Fuji

I went for a ride yesterday and I tried to make it as flat as I could. I only had about an hour before some family obligations and planned to ride about 19 miles. Half against an 8 mph frigid headwind straight out of the north and about half of it letting that cold wind push me back home. The ride itself was great even though pushing the wind was very cold. The 17 mph average was a comfortable pace and the new(er) bike performed flawlessly as it always does. My one year old was awake when I left which he's usually not so I found myself thinking about him as I headed north against the wind.

The day before yesterday he got his first haircut. We went to Todd's Barbershop having learned my lesson not to try and do it myself about three years ago on his older brother. He did pretty good as he sat there on the booster under the cape with me holding his hands and arms down by his side. When he was done he looked like a whole new kid. I hardly recognized him as it was quite a change. Then he whistled and I knew it was him.

He has been whistling for almost six months now. I think that's pretty rare for a kid his age and as I rode north I thought back to when I whistled for the first time. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the back of my Dad's bike on the metal rack that was mounted over the rear fender. I don't remember what kind of bike it was but I remember my Dad riding it a lot back and forth to work. It was green. It had a metal spring loaded cargo holder on that rack and that rack was at least twice as wide as my four year old butt.

I was going to work with my Dad sitting on the back of his bike on that metal rack while he pedaled however far it was to the shop where he worked and I remember hitting every bump as I held onto his canvas uniform belt. I don't remember how or why but on that ride to my Dad's work that day I whistled for the first time. I also remember him pedaling past the "Yankee Go Home!" demonstrators that I could see outside the chain link fence that separated our insulated existence on Yakota Air Force Base from the real and seemingly angry Japan.

As I turned east and then back south on my ride yesterday I was remembering my first bicycle ride without training wheels in the grassy field somewhere near the BX there at Yakota AFB. I remember the exhilaration I felt and the freedom and what seemed at the time like speed. It took my breath away. It was exciting. That ride ended up with me and the bike laying on the ground in the grass as it seemed at the time like the best way to stop. It didn't take long and I would ride everywhere I could ride and I would even ride some places I wasn't suppose to ride.

Heading south on my ride yesterday I was going almost twice as fast as I was heading north amazed that a little bit of frigid north wind could help so much and I remembered Kindergarten and making pictures of Mt. Fuji. I remember scribbling crayons all over a page and covering it up with as much color as I could and then brushing some matte black paint over the color and then scratching the paint off with the end of a Popsicle stick to reveal the color underneath in the shape of that great mountain.

I remember learning about the rabbit churning butter in the full moon. I remember the big hill next to where we lived where I would wait for the bus to take me to Kindergarten and first grade. I remember the snow in the winter and the earthquakes any time of year that would rattle me right out of my bunk bed and send me and my sister running into the living room to seek shelter under the arch from the hallway. I remember tormenting my sister with the robot that had the grabbing claw that I got one Christmas in Japan.

Heading back west yesterday I was pushing my way up that little 2 to 3% rise that always means I'm almost home and I remember my Mom being hospitalized for a while there in Japan. There was something wrong with her blood. Something about sugar and blood and blacking out and not being able to eat bacon and corn. It's all kind of fuzzy but even as a little kid I knew something was wrong and I realized that nobody could seem to make it right. That was 44 years ago and now today I have the same problem but with the technology and the insulin analogs to effectively deal with it.

I went back to Japan and to Yakota AFB 25 years ago on deployment with the Marine Corps. I looked at the grassy field where I learned to ride without training wheels. They had built high rise family housing there. I looked at the big hill where I used to wait for the school bus. The hill was gone. It had been replaced by a slight incline and I realized that it looked totally different to a four year old little boy looking at it from a much lower to the ground perspective. The big hill was still there after all. It just wasn't so big any more.

25 years ago I blew up some pine trees in the nature preserve near Mt. Fuji with some white phosphorus 81mm mortar rounds and almost sparked an international incident with my inaccurate call for fire. I ran almost everyday at Camp Fuji and lifted weights and ate a lot of yakisoba at the White Tiger in Gotenba. I went to a movie theater and saw Sylvester Stallone in Cobra with English subtitles and I climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji which is probably the hardest and most painful thing I have ever done in my life. It is also one of the most meaningful things I have ever accomplished.

And when I got home from my bit over an hour bike ride yesterday and brought my bike inside and leaned it against the couch as I removed my winter layers I saw my little one year old come whistling down the hallway all excited to grab my front wheel. He looked great sporting his new and first haircut and he seemed happy to have me and my bike back home. He whistled down the stairs into the basement hallway as I maneuvered my bike on it's rear wheel around him to put it on the stand in my office. He whistles in and grabs the crank and starts turning it until I tell him no and he runs out of my office whistling down the hallway to go back upstairs.

I wonder what he's going to remember. What is he going to remember about his Dad? What is he going to remember about his Mom? Will he remember earthquakes or riding without training wheels or big hills on small inclines? Will he grow up to see the rabbit in a full moon churning butter? Will he scrape paint off a page full of color or ride his bike where he's not suppose to? What is he going to remember? Will he remember learning how to whistle and turning the pedals on my bike as it sits in the stand in my office? I wonder what is going to happen in his life that is going to make him who he will become. I wonder if he will have a Mt. Fuji.

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