Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Of Bikes . . . and Teeth

I don't write a great deal of personal stuff here but this is an exception. Call it therapeutic. I'm a bike nut -- I love 'em. Always have. So, naturally, when I had a son, I had visions of him taking out the sprint at Paris - Tours. He's four-and-a-half now and, so far, his Palmeres include a second place in the kid sprints at the Univest Grand Prix in September (some other kid's training wheels boxed him out at the line). The boy demanded that his training wheels be removed about six months ago and he has powered his tiny little two-wheeler around the neighborhood with confidence ever since.

Well, tonight I coaxed him into taking the big hill -- the one he always walked his bike down. Turns out, he's smarter than me. He got going too fast and, being four, took his feet off the pedals in panic. Not good when you're dealing with coaster brakes. Next, the front wheel started to shimmy in that sickening way familiar to all bike nuts who get going too fast for their gear. I urged him to head for the grass. He almost made it. Almost.

We just got back from the ER. The doctor (well, nurse practitioner -- my wife was none too happy about that) said his tooth didn't need to be replaced and that the adult tooth would come in fine . . . in a few years. He's got the fattest lip I've ever seen and a healthy dose of road rash on his chin and beneath his nose, which will weep bloody ooze for the next day or so. But, in the end, he's going to be fine. We've already begun to talk about the lessons he needs to learn from his first crash. And he finally understands why I am so damn insistent about his helmet.

He's a brave little guy and didn't shed a tear as the nurse worked him over. Though it had to hurt, he even cracked a satisfied little smile when I told him he had almost as much blood as Hushovd did after he was cut during the Stage 1 sprint of this year's Tour even though the boy is more of a McEwen fan. (In truth, it wasn't even close -- a heart pumping at 190bpm can make even a scratch look fatal.) It's easy to joke about it with him but it's my fault for forgetting he's still very small. When I picked him up off the ground and saw his face covered in blood and blacktop with a hole in his mouth, I couldn't believe I had let it happen. Sure, it was an accident, but as a parent even accidents are your responsibility. The boy will be as good as new in about four days (save a missing tooth, which the toothfairy will reward handsomely). It will probably take a bit longer for me to recover. Even so, he wants to get back on his bike the day after tomorrow. We've agreed, though, that we'll stick to the flats and tiny hills for a while longer. The big hill isn't going anywhere and we've plenty of time before Paris - Tours 2022.