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The Bike

I unlock the garage with trepidation. Somehow I feel as if I am doing something wrong going in there, never mind taking my Dad’s bike for a spin. I have done this before, but only if I had asked his permission. His bike was his sacred possession. His pride and joy, his freedom.

The key is still in the box on the back of the Tenere. I open it to nd his gloves and his balaclava. He bought a new helmet a few weeks ago – a red open-faced helmet with a flip-down screen. There are six helmets in the garage, several pairs of boots, and all his gear. I lock the top box with everything inside.

The bike is much bigger than I thought, and much higher and heavier. How he got on and off I don’t know. Getting my leg over the top box is not easy. He was 84. I have to smile thinking of his determination. Everything is still the way he left it on Thursday – the next day he had a stroke. A week later he died. Yet, here in the garage, nothing has changed.

I put on his helmet which fits perfectly. There is a little “moon bag” tied to the handlebars with cable ties. It is worn by sun and dust. I unzip the first compartment – a tyre pressure gauge and some “Lert” tablets. My Mom always insisted that he drinks these to stay awake on long trips. The second zip reveals the patch and solution, and the third insulation tape. My Dad loved modifying things.

The bike starts immediately, reverberating in the garage. It is so loud and powerful that I actually get a fright. I slowly push it back out of the garage. Sally, his dog, immediately recognises the sound of his bike and starts barking frantically in the house. I pull away gently but can feel that this thing has power. I can just imagine my Dad opening the throttle on a quiet road…

I do a quick spin through the village. I am not dressed for the open road. He would never get on the bike without his gear, another lesson I learned from him. Not even just going to the shop. Never. You do not want to come off a bike wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I am overcome with emotion as I smell my Dad when I ip down the screen of the helmet. I feel his presence.

I put the bike back in the garage exactly as I found it. It must stay there for a while longer. It is too soon to take it away. Somehow it doesn’t feel right. My Mom sits staring out the window. I say to her how strange the house feels without him. “You have no idea how I miss him,” she says. I suppose I don’t. They have been together for 58 years. Even though he was a quiet man, he had a huge presence. You noticed him when he walked into a room. Now we notice his absence. There seems to be a massive chunk taken out of our world.

I try to ascertain from my Mom how she feels about living in the house without my Dad. “People ask what you will do now that Dad is gone”. “What do they mean?” she asks. “Like will you stay on in the house, Are you not afraid to be alone downstairs?” (Maritha her companion lives upstairs.) “Well where else would I go?” she asks, puzzled. “Well, I think they assume the old age home…” She looks out the car window. “Over my dead body! I will stay right here!” Well that settles that then, doesn’t it? I go to say goodnight to her. She sits on the side of the bed with Sally next to her. She looks frail. I say goodnight. “You can give me a hug,” she says. My heart breaks into a thousand pieces. She has never asked me to hug her. A new journey is now starting for us, building a new life without my Dad. I have no idea how it will turn out for my Mom.

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