My parents never did like motorcycles. When I was growing up, I was forbidden to own one. I was forbidden to ride on one. Heck, I was practically forbidden from even looking at one. To my parents, motorcycles meant bad things. They meant anarchy, lawlessness, dangerousness, and maybe even death. And our house was not a very friendly place the day I brought home my first bike, a decrepit Suzuki T500 2-stroke. It barely ran and it wasn’t much to look at. But like a proverbial “gateway” drug, my parents were certain the machine would lead me to unsavory places. They despised the thing so much that, within a few months of bringing it home, they made me get rid of it.
It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I owned my next bike. And many more have followed since. Through it all, my parents were never thrilled about my pastime, although even they had to admit that I hadn’t turned out too bad, despite my passion for anything with two wheels and an engine. They didn’t like them, but they had at least learned to accept my involvement with them.
Many years later, after I had moved to Minnesota from Key West, FL, my parents came to visit me. At the time, I owned a 1993 Sportster 1200 that had been heavily customized, and as I was showing them around the house my wife and I had recently purchased, their eyes fell on the machine in the garage. Rather than make excuses, I simply turned to my mom and asked her if she would like to go for a ride. And to my utter amazement, she said yes.
We bundled her up in my wife’s leathers and riding boots, popped a helmet on her head and helped her onto the passenger seat. I very gingerly eased the bike out of the driveway and onto the road, and after asking if she was all set, I took off for a slow, leisurely tour of the neighborhood. We were only out for about five minutes at most, and my mom never uttered a word. She just held on tight.
When we pulled back into the driveway, my wife helped her off of the bike. She stood there for a few seconds, silent as if in thought; then she turned to me and said, “I think I understand now why you like riding so much. It’s almost like flying.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. To hear her, a person who had been so against motorcycles, say such a thing, was akin to the Pope saying that maybe the Catholic Church was just a bunch of hooey. But that simple statement, and the smile that followed, told me that she did indeed understand. And our relationship was changed for the better because of it.
As I write this, my mom lies dying. She’s finally succumbing to a lengthy illness that has been a constant battle for her, and she has only a day or two left to live. But I am more thankful that I can ever explain for those precious few minutes with her on the back of my bike. A motorcycle, a simple machine with two wheels and an engine, was able to bridge a chasm that neither of us knew how to span. And I will always remember that sunny afternoon when, for the briefest of times, my mom was a biker, too.
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About the writer: “Besides being a rabid motorcyclist, Mike Berger, otherwise known as The Ghostrider,” is a long-standing member of The Motorcycle Riders Foundation and A.B.A.T.E. of MN. You can regularly find him fighting for riders’ rights both locally and nationally.”