Friday, October 21, 2011

There Is No Such Thing

He was my mother's favorite cousin. My memory is of being told he lived with my grandparents for a while. His father was probably an alcoholic. His mother would occasionally babysit my sister and me.

His beginnings were not easy, but he was making a life for himself. I don't remember anything about his wife. I don't know if he was divorced or what, but I do know he had a son.

He rode a motorcycle. He, also, drove a milk truck.  Not the kind that delivers milk to stores, but the kind that picked up milk in bulk from diary farms. During the summer he would ride his motorcycle to where the truck was parked and his son would ride with him. 

On a morning like so many other mornings my mother's cousin was riding to work with his son riding behind him, but this morning turned out to be a morning unlike any other. Was he a little later than usual or perhaps a little earlier? Was he in a hurry? I don't know. All I know is on this day an intersection that he and his son had been though probably hundreds of times, an intersection that seemed routine and harmless turned fatal. There was another car. They collided. I'm told he died instantly.  The son lived. He was the only one to survive the accident. With broken bones he managed to make his way the half mile or so to the nearest house. His Dad needed help and his determination pushed him to get it. He didn't know his Dad was already dead. It was all very sad.

I don't think my mother ever liked motorcycles much, but after her cousin was killed riding one she hated them. By the time I began riding my mother had been gone for a number of years. I'm sure if she had lived to see me riding she would not have been pleased. Truthfully, if she were still alive I suspect I wouldn't be riding.

I hadn't thought of my mother's cousin for years, but when I began riding that changed. He comes to mind often. He is in my head now. He won't let me forget that there is no such thing as a routine and harmless intersection. Never. Ever.


  1. Mate we all have a story like this, any one who rides knows some who doesnt anymore for the reasons you said. But I have learnt that life is for living, and riding a bike is a part of who I am now. Good thought provoking blog.

  2. It is sad when anyone loses their life, but I find it especially unfortunate when a sad turn of events keeps someone from doing what they otheriwise might love.

    We all probably know someone who has died while riding and some of us know people who have died in a car accident. What amazes me are those that claim they will never ride because they know someone whom has died while riding, but at the same time still drive their car even though they too know someone who had died while driving a car or truck.

    I agree with Roger, very thought provoking post.

  3. Roger: The son does live in my home area. I wondered as I wrote this post if he ever rode. I must remember to ask my sister when next we speak if she knows. I agree with you, life is for the living and it is very difficult for me to imagine a life without riding.

  4. Very sad and very thought provoking. We can't hide from everything that may potentially harm us. I work in a neurology office and have seen several bad outcomes from vehicle accidents, car and motorcycle, so you would think I would make a choice not to ride. I did wait until I was considerably older to take it up. Other hobbies seem so much more dangerous than riding, like skydiving or long boarding down a steep hill. I think we have to keep our wits about us and use all our safe riding techniques that we have been taught. I also think we have to commit ourselves as riders to continually honing our skills through continued practice of safety manoevres and good riding techniques, but sadly sometimes this isn't enough and their are consequences for even good riders. I hope we all stay safe and continue to ride for a long time to come. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Trobairitz: Yes, there is a double standard when it comes to motorcycles vs cars. That said, it must be admitted that there are seldom only a fender-bender when a motorcycle is involved.

    I will admit to reading about accidents involving motorcycles and seeing if there is something there for me to learn. Sadly, many seem to involve excessive speed coupled with reckless riding. But there are others that offer a heads up, like my cousin's accident. In some way this makes the deaths in these accidents seem a little less senseless. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  6. Dar: Well hello. I didn't know you worked in a neurology office. Small world. Yes, when I was in rehab from my head injury I saw some outcomes of motorcycle accidents that were very sad. Needless to say, given my experience of recovering from a head injury, it astounds me when I enter a State that doesn't have helmet laws and see folks riding bare headed. Oh well, it is about risk management. That is a risk I recently wouldn't take.

    I share your hope that we all stay safe and continue to ride for a long time to come.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. Keith:

    thank you for thinking out loud. We all have to assume our own risk levels, what we wear, and our riding styles whether you are aggressive or passive. Sometimes it's just the "luck of the draw", other times it is lane positioning and experience to anticipate the actions of others. Sometimes we get lucky . . . Sorry about your mother's cousin but life is more than always playing it safe, but to live life to the fullest we can within our sphere of safety

    Riding the Wet Coast

  8. bob: Thanks for the comment. I doubt I was yet a teenager when the accident happened. I can't say it impacted whether I was going to ride or not. Riding a motorcycle or scooter wasn't anywhere on my radar way back then. Mom, I suppose, needed to be angry with something or someone. Motorcycles were an easy target. I just remember it being very sad.

    Now, this memory keeps me company when I ride and keeps me aware of the danger of complacency.

  9. As others have said, very sad when someone loses their life. I'm glad it hasn't stopped you from riding. My family was never crazy about motorcycles. I didn't tell my mom right away that I had started to ride, though eventually I had to spill the beans and let her know. She's not crazy about it, but she's okay with it. Bad things can happen even if you try to play it safe all the time. Like Roger said, life is for living. Good post.

  10. Dear Keith:

    My father, whose birthday is today, Halloween, was a professional firefighter in a city that burned like a Roman candle. I once saw him slamming away at a roof on a burning tenement — and slip. He caught himself, before nearly falling six stories.

    He thought riding my Kawasaki was more challenging than what he did for a living... But he hesitated to do neither. He knew a guy who had faced German machine-gunners during the war, and who died of a stroke getting off the boat in New York. My dad said, "You can't be afraid of everything that can hurt you." I try to remember that whenever I get the jitters over something.

    But there are plenty of intersections that I enter covering the brakes, the clutch, and the horn.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  11. While up in Minnesota recently, I saw a bumper sticker. It read, "I believe in life before death." I liked it and it seems to tie in with this post and the comments.

  12. A little bit of fear and and a healthy dose of respect is always helpful. :)