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My Father's Bicycle
by Li Chen
June 17, 2012

  "Do you want to ride a bicycle?" "That's the key for the bicycle! I have left a bicycle in the downstairs shed." Instead of saying good-bye, each time when I was taking leave of my 83 year old father, he always asked me about a bicycle.  

As a part of my childhood memory, I always think of my father carrying me on his bicycle. When I was going to school, my father drove me. When I was going downtown, my father carried me. When I went swimming, my father carried me.

Because I often did not pay attention to my leg being scraped by the rear wheels of the bicycle, my father rarely let me sit on the back seat. Instead, he put me on the pole attached to the handle bar. I still remember that the bicycle bell was shaking with its jingling ringtone and my chattering. Sitting on my father’s bicycle, nestled to his chest, the breeze caressing my face and hair, and I felt a feeling of flying.

Sometimes, my shoes dropped, and I was always slow to cry out, "Dad, Dad, shoes off, off!" Since my father had been pedaling, he stopped the bike reluctantly saying: "I told you not to shake feet but you never listen. Shoes always off!" Then, my father went back to look for my little shoes. I was left standing still, staring at his silhouette.

In retrospect, I felt so small when I did not reach the height of the bicycle, and my father’s appearance was so tall.

As I was growing up, I needed to sit on the back seat of the bicycle. Eventually, I learned to ride a bicycle staggeringly under my father’s instruction. Finally, I rode his bicycle to school. My father's bicycle, along with its crisp jangling bell, is the symbol of my childhood. For most of my childhood, memories were happy. But occasionally, the memory was tragic.

One night, my father drove me to the university gymnasium to watch a volleyball game, which is his favorite because he was an excellent (and handsome) volleyball player. After the game was over, on the way home with the bicycle, we dropped into a two meter ditch. Oh, my God! Even now, I still remember those seconds free falling into darkness. Due to living on the university campus, many teachers and undergraduates knew us and sent us to the hospital. Recovering, we laid on the hospital bed together for a week. It was the first time that I was hospitalized (with my father).       

Furthermore, having a high school student's vanity, ego and independent desire, I started to reject my parent’s care to prove I was mature. I would rather walk or take the bus to school than ride on a bicycle. But if I got up too late in the morning, my father still insisted on carrying me to school.

The last memorable bicycle ride was when my father took me to take the university entrance exam. It was summer. In order to avoid the bus not being on schedule, my father drove me with his bicycle. It took four days. The sweat wet my father’s shirt. I could hear his wheeze. He was getting older.  

After my mother passed away, the conversation between my father and I was more simple and stilted. But now my father still maintains his bicycle in good condition-- nobody can believe that the bicycle has been ridden for over 30 years. Today, my father is 83 years old, but he rides his bicycle every day!

“Papa, please don't ride a bicycle anymore!" In the latest phone call, I almost shouted the above after many times’ trying to reason with him. He replied, "Don't worry about me! I ride a bicycle for exercise! I also can use it as my cane!"

"But I have brought a cane to you!" I said. Last summer, I brought a cane to him from Canada.

"I don't like canes!" My father is still stubborn at his age. I understand that no old man likes to admit that he is old enough to walk with a cane. I am his only child. I cannot do anything about it. Every day, I pray for my father’s health and happiness. I wish I could take care of him more as soon as possible.
Rumor has it that a ten-year-old child worships his father, a 20-year-old young man despises his father and a 40-year-old middle-aged man starts to understand his father--however, I cherish the memory of my father.   

Now, I do not remember the last time I took my father's bike, and I do not remember the last time I dropped my shoes. For me, it is a long time not to ride a bicycle. Once in a while, watching a young father riding a bicycle pulling his child, my heart would consciously fill with a melancholy feeling for my father's white hair.

Only in a dream, I can speak to him: "Dad, I remember, I remember you carrying me on the bicycle. Remember that you looked for my lost shoes on the road under the faint moonlight . . ."

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