by James Stover
Plattsburgh, New York, USA
Mom and Dad were running some errands, and had left my brother John and me in the care of our teen-aged siblings. My brother David and I had decided to ride our bikes, and being no more than 7 years old, I couldn’t wait to go on an “adventure” with my big brother, nine years my senior.
David rode his 10-speed, I rode my 3-speed, and we set off down the road. Now, the town I grew up in was rural, in 1970s upstate New York; not a sizable population, not a lot of development. We’re talking secluded back roads, and often very rough pavement and narrow shoulders.
We rode for a good part of the afternoon, enjoying the day, the sites, and all the wonders that a summer day holds for children, until finally the sun and the strain started to wear us down.
We began our ride home when my pedaling came to a grinding halt. My front tire had a flat, and we were still miles from home. I tried forcing it — riding on the rim — but it was no use. It was almost impossible to steer and, for all practical purposes, riding was slower than walking. Worse yet, at my age, it was difficult enough just to walk the bike a short distance; to try walking it the 3-4 miles home would be almost impossible. It was then that David lifted up the front of my bike with his right arm and had me pedal alongside him.
Now, I should mention David had a rather slight build — his body was scarred from the chemotherapy and scalpels that saved him from a rare kidney tumor when he was 11 years old. Despite this, he managed to carry me a mile or so in this manner, riding his 10-speed, steering with one hand while straining with the other to keep the front of my bike high enough for me to pedal. Before long, however, large blisters began to form on his hands, so David stopped and told me to climb on the back of his bike. Standing on the pedals so I could sit, he continued to hold the front of my bike aloft and got me, and my bike, home safely after another grueling hour.
When we got to the house, he slumped on the kitchen chair, exhausted, holding his blistered hands in front of him. After resting for a moment, he cleaned himself up, and we never mentioned what had happened to my other brothers, my sister, or my parents.
At the time he probably would have just said he was looking out for his kid brother, but that day, David showed me a quiet strength and love I have great difficulty putting into words even now. As an adult, I take a lesson from my big brother David and try to face life with the same quiet strength and love he showed me on that day.