Here’s a bit of info that perhaps James will shoot me for sharing—My son and his friends, well some of them, enjoy riding their bikes around the city late at night. Summer captured them right in the heart of childhood, even as manhood has claimed their future. Over the past few weeks, I’ve delighted in hearing the morning stories of their adventures—people they’ve met, things about the city they love, and specifically, the fact that these giant men… these giant boys have been riding around the city playing cops and robbers.
There’s an initiative in our city that’s sprung up this past year where adults join together to play. As in the good old days. Recess. Just… an opportunity to have fun and be young and free and meet new friends and just… stop being so mistrustful, so busy or grown up, and to just play again.
I like that my menfolk get up to this all on their own. It makes me happy.
And, to be honest, when I asked, a week ago, “what were you guys up to until 3am, out on your bikes?” I wasn’t expecting to hear that they’d been playing.
There’s something wonderful about these grown guys out on their bikes, just being alive and free and healthy and young. I love it. I love heading home from an afternoon spent writing and seeing my mancub biking along the street. It makes my heart swell in the same way that it does when I see him running across the football, or rugby field.
I love knowing that somewhere underneath the weight of The Future—of football and courses and work and life—these guys are just out there, having fun.
And then, last night, at 2:15am, I got the text—Mom, I need to be picked up.
I got out of bed, threw on some clothes and put my contacts in, and headed to where the guys were. When I arrived, I saw a bunch of them standing around, and James sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, his bike at his feet.
I thought he’d been hurt. My stomach sank.
But when I got out of the van, he simply, sadly, yes, very sadly, said “We’d stopped at MacDonald’s a minute, and when we came out, someone had slashed my bike tires”.
They had been. Numerous times.
My son, saddened by this, was quick-thinking and justice-oriented as always, and had flagged down some police officers, given a report and even suggested they check the MacDonald’s surveillance video footage. The city police were wonderful, and kind, but couldn’t find the culprit. “There isn’t anyone who would do this to me, directly,” James said to them, “I just don’t see why someone would do something so random and cruel,” he said.
We packed up the bike into the van, and sadly headed home.
As I’m known to do, I shared what had happened on Facebook. “Pretty sad ending to tonight’s Cops and Robbers game since the guys came out from a snack break only to find James’ bike tire slashed,” I wrote, “Random acts of violence are so stupid.”
(James shared it in a bit more colourful language on his twitter feed.)
I went back to bed, but couldn’t sleep.
I was quite sad about it all, because I felt like someone had come along and snatched the last handful of childhood from my son’s grasp. Had taken, in what I’m sure was just a random act of impulsive violence, something of freedom and the last bit of boyhood from him. Not only that, but as most of you know, fitness is huge to James, and he often rides his bike to the gym. He is counting on sports scholarships, and takes his training really seriously.
It left me rather heartbroken and kind of angry. It’s an expensive bike; it’s one of the few things he owns that cost a lot of money, and one of the few gifts he’s gotten that are of lasting value.
So, truthfully, I cried.
During the day today, I thought about that bike many times. I thought about the senseless ways in which we all take from one another—sometimes just in a split-second impulse that we don’t count out.
Oh, I knew the slicing of his tire (repeated slashings) wasn’t aimed directly at him. Three other kids had their bikes tethered there—James’ just was the one sticking out the most.
The lingering sense of violation and sadness kind of haunted me today. I sang that pathetic “I feel like I’m 12 years old” song, all about losing your bike.
And then, I got home tonight and found this in the mailbox, which I gave to James:.
I have an idea of who dropped the card off at our house.
And yet, I’m not 100% certain.
What I want to say to the person who took the time out of their day to shine some light on my son’s sorrow is this—Thank you. Thank you for understanding how tender the line between adulthood and youth is. Thank you for knowing that senseless acts leave us all feeling shaken.
Thank you for knowing the incredible importance of laying kindness over a freshly slashed wound.
Thank you for putting a smile on my boy’s face.
Thank you for knowing that it’s important to remind one another that there is much more of beauty and goodness in the world than there is of wickedness and sorrow. Thank you for taking time out of your day to purchase the gift card you left in that envelope, and to write him the card.
I wish you could have seen his face.
Thank you for knowing that I delight in that child and his antics and that I also delight in sharing that with you—with all of you.
And thank you, thank you, thank you for providing something for my son that I cannot afford to right now. I am between jobs and attempting to do this writing thing, and money isn’t a luxury we have these days. There’s something very sad about not being able to fix things for your child, even when he’s a grown up man.
In that, you gave a gift of kindness I could never repay.
Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Today, you gave my son a memory that will long-outlast the frustration and sorrow he felt over the slashing of his bike tires. You rewrote history and added a vibrant slash of joy.
I thank you for that. The tale of your kindness will be told many times in our future.
Thank you for being a friend.