Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mentor Milestone

I learned through a relative of his that a pivotal childhood mentor turned 99 years old last week.

I've mentioned the Big Dig, my discovery of motorcycles and buying my first real bike here enough times to bore you to tears. I haven't however mentioned just how important my childhood neighbor was in both fostering a love of motorcycles and as a role model for how to be a great neighbor, friend father and grandfather. Mr "T****" was retired, had a large family of grown kids and several grand kids when I moved into the neighborhood. He spent a lot of time working in the yard always made it a point to say "Hi" and always had one of several remarkably cool dogs I had to pet. As a result we chatted about nothing much and everything A LOT. If it ever annoyed him I certainly never got the faintest idea that was the case. I learned he loved his family, cared about his neighbors and and is one of the finest men I've ever known. I learned he grew up in Maine, was a B-25 pilot in WWII (but wasn't overly enthusiastic about talking about it) and enjoyed owning and riding an Indian motorcycle as a young man. He also had (and still has I'm sure) a "Greatest Generation" work ethic and worked a full career as a machinist at GE. Every member of his family is a truly remarkably individual and as an adult I can now see it's because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

When I became motorcycle obsessed at the ripe old age of maybe 8 I bought an 80cc dirt bike with no real idea how I'd actually ride it in the sprawling metropolis of Albuquerque NM. I was incredibly lucky that he also rode 3 or 4 times per month, owned a van and was generous enough to regularly invite me along. I wasn't a very good trail rider but he was patient and never seemed to mind continually waiting along for me.

 Before too long we made regular trips to the "Big Dig" (now known as Montessa Park) and many other local haunts. I eventually got so I could mostly keep up (as I recall he had some pretty serious riding chops) and despite the age difference I had a pretty good friend. He largely taught me to ride and absolutely taught me to ride responsibly. I not only learned to love motorcycles but found a life long outlet that kept me from driving a car like some of my idiot high school friends did. You learn pretty quickly how stupid is too stupid on a dirt bike. I really wish all kids could have a little of that before getting behind the wheel of a car or jumping on a street bike.

Big Dig

The closer I get to the age he was when we became riding buddies the more keenly aware I am it did involve a significant sacrifice on his part. It's not just motorcycles either. I became the spouse, father, neighbor and friend I am today in no small way by following his lead. I know him well enough to know he did none of this to get a "thank you." That said I still can't possibly thank him enough. I have zero doubt my brother would say all the same things. Mr. T, please know on this birthday you make that kind of impression on nearly every life you touch. I'd love to be able to say I will "pay it forward" someday, even if at only to a tiny fraction of the extent.

My first bike beside the last bike my brother and I restored - a 1948 Indian Chief


Bastard said...

You seem to have been blessed with Mr.T's company...Quite a number
of "Greatest Generation" guys have impressed us all...Too bad
they are now disappearing into history..Our younger generation
hasn't a clue of who these hero's were...I really miss being
at their elbow, learning how life should be lived.

Flathead45 said...

Ced had a major influence on my as well. He sold me my first...and second motorcycles, and was always willing to take my brother and me out to ride. I still have very fond memories of trips out to the Big Dig and the reservation loop out near Bernalillo. He was willing to help wrench on a motorcycle when I got stuck.

Happy 99th, Mr T.