By Al Stumph
My last motorcycle left home during the summer of 2003. It was carried up the driveway on the back of a Dodge pickup on its way to a new life in New Jersey. That was not at all the departure I had planned for it. In fact, I had not planned for its departure at all. I fully expected that I would check out long before it did. Rather, perhaps we would check out together in a blaze of glory. Or just a blaze.
It was only a couple of years before that I had joked during a talk to the Pittsfield Rotary Club that the last thing I would give up in this life would be the keys to my motorcycle. Now the bike and the keys were both gone.
Welcome Home, a store of antiques, collectables and lots of funky stuff, had been my wife Kathy’s dream for many years. When that store became a reality, I left my employment to help her make it a success.
For the next two years the bike rarely left the garage. I am certain the motorcycle never knew what happened. After all it was only a machine. But somehow I felt that by neglecting it, I was in effect abandoning a friend, not doing with him what we enjoyed and shared most.
But my life and interests had changed and the bike fit in less and less. Besides I was getting older and could not trust my hands to grip the handlebars adequately. A numbness caused by vibrations would often come over them.
I advertised the motorcycle in the Want Ad Digest and shortly a young woman, Gabby, purchased it. She and her boyfriend, a very experienced biker, came up from New Jersey to look it over. The following weekend they placed it on the back of a borrowed pickup for transport to a new life. It was Gabby’s first bike. It fit her well and she was very proud to own it. I knew she would enjoy it.
I experienced a nagging sadness as I watched the bike go up the driveway. I recognized it was not the motorcycle I grieved for. It would be loved. I grieved for things that would never be again.
Gone forever is my youth and the feel of a young woman’s body against mine with her arms wrapped around what was my then slender waist.
Gone is the feeling of power and freedom that accompanies straddling several hundred horses leaning into curves and feeling the air rush past.
Gone is the sense of taking on the odds and proving that I really can be invincible.
But that’s not bad at all. I did have those experiences and they will always be a part of who I am. They are part of what makes up this old guy who will still enjoy driving around in his dented and aging pickup truck.
Gabby, I hope you are having fun and making good memories with your bike. That’s what I did.
Writer Al Stumph is a retired social worker and trainer whose specialty was adoption and foster care issues. During the 1960's, he was a Mariel priest working in Hong Kong. Today, he lives in Chatham, New York, with his wife, Kathy, mowing lawns, building furniture and helping out at "Welcome Home."