You’ll have to excuse me a bit. I’ve had a lot less time to proof this than I’d like – but I simply have no more time to spare tonight.
I know that another search of the park is ongoing with dogs and people, and so far nothing has been found to give any indication as to where Dad might be.
More follow-up also occurred with the police and the US embassy.
Finally several more “sightings” were pursued and they turned out to be dead-ends. [I must say that in nearly every case we’ve been offered help, with sightings, offers of assistance etc, they’ve been very generous attempts to help. The people of Kiev have been so wonderful to us, giving of their time and empathy, their care and so very much wishing they could bring Dad back to us. We are so very grateful!]
But the bottom line is that we still have no more idea what happened to Dad than we did yesterday, the day before, or frankly two weeks ago.
So, we continue to hope and pray.
On that note, we have decided that we will spend another day fasting and praying. We’d invite you, if this is something you’re impressed to do also, to join us. From now to tomorrow evening, we will take special time to meditate and consider our relationship to God and to each other.
Please don’t feel you need to join us – we’d love your company in our journey, but we also realize that this particular part of the journey may not be one you feel called to. We respect that, and wouldn’t have you feel we’re calling you to do anything you’re not comfortable with, or don’t feel called to do.
So, I’ve been telling stories, and I’ve been pondering what story I might tell next. I was pretty unsure until I remembered this one…
Bikes have a long history in our family. I’ve probably incurred more injuries purely on bikes in my childhood than all the rest of my life combined.
And Dad always liked bikes. He even has a tandem bike – that’s a side-by-side tandem. I just saw it this last weekend parked and forlorn…
In case that didn’t make sense I’ll try again – most tandems (a bike two people can ride at the same time) are long, and the two riders sit one behind the other. But this tandem is one where there is one regular short frame with a bunch of odd modifications and two seats, two handlebars etc, all side by side. But this story isn’t about the tandem – I just mention it so you know how much he likes bikes of all kinds, and probably best of all, company on his rides.
Dad tells the story, and I also recall it, that one night we were riding his bike home from some function at the church. The church is about two miles away from home, and it is substantially up-hill all the way home. At both the start and the end of the trip there are steep hills too.
So, it’s very dark out, and I’m riding along on the rack on the back. I was quite young at the time, I’d guess five or six years old. I don’t think that bike child-seats existed back then – so yes, it looked third-world – with me simply sitting on the rack behind Dad’s seat and holding on, so one didn’t slide too far forward or back, or get tipped off the side.
As the rider on the rack, you had to watch your feet too, because if they got swung around, they could go in the spokes and that wasn’t so good for me, the bike, or Dad who was riding it. [Yes, I know that first hand. And yes, it did hurt – quite a bit actually. But that’s not this story, so don’t get me distracted or we’ll never get done!]
So, we’re riding along and it’s very dark – long after the sun had gone down – and evidently I instructed my Dad that he clearly wasn’t going fast enough – and that he needed to go FASTER. [I mean really, I’m sitting on this uncomfortable wire rack, trying to keep my feet from getting munched by the spokes and this is just taking *forever* and we need to get there faster!]
Dad was rather amused, I think, and tried to convince me we *were* going fast. No, said I, this is NOT fast. Dad replied that it WAS fast. We argued about exactly how fast, “fast” was – but Dad insisted that we were speedy. If I recall, I then insisted we needed to go “speed-fast,” and a family phrase was born.
To this day, I’ll still hear about things being “speed-fast.”
Another bike story:
We fairly regularly rode our bikes to Church. I’m sure this was the trifecta – this way Dad could ruin his good suits and clothes, get his vaunted exercise and enjoy life and cycling all at the same time.
Dad has a way of ruining nice clothes by doing all sorts of unusual things in them.
I once watched him tear out the inside of his suit-pants leg, all the way from the crotch to the knee, while heaving around a set of ramps we used to load the tractor on the flat-bed truck. The ramp caught the inside of the pant-leg and snagged. Since the ramps were so heavy, the rest was just gravity taking hold. Other pants hems were eviscerated by bike sprockets and chains. Once he tore out a suit-jacket as he ran up the steps at the hospital. As he rushed by the handrail, the end somehow slipped into the suit-coat pocket and the jacket was no match for his momentum.
Thus, the nice clothes wouldn’t be the slightest impediment to riding a bike to church.
As I said in the last story, there is big hill right near the church. Going home, it would be uphill, but going to church would be downhill.
But it’s not all downhill. The main street goes downhill, and then you’d have to make a right turn, climb a short steep hill and arrive at the church, mostly at the top of the ridge.
But, this block has a funny feature. Between the two streets – the downhill and the uphill one – is a street that cuts the block in half, with a quarter-circle. So, if you took the quarter-circle, you’d miss some of the downhill and some of the up-hill. Missing the downhill wasn’t such a great thing, but missing the sharp climb was quite nice – especially with a little boy hanging on the back. [Yes, the same wire rack, same spokes and same precarious perch.]
And if you really got up some speed, you could zoom part way up the steep uphill portion and that would make it easier.
So, we veer right off the main street onto the quarter-circle. But this was spring-time.
In the winter, on hills, the sand and gravel trucks would come by and drop grimy, sandy grit on the road -which was probably a good thing when it was snowy and icy, but not so good when it wasn’t.
We were going too fast by then, I guess, to make much difference, and so there wasn’t much we could do as we started to slide. The bike is tilted to the right to make the turn, and we’re sliding left. Closer and closer, we get to the left side of the road. We tilt lower and lower, right knees getting closer and closer to the pavement.
Fortunately for our skin and clothes, we slammed laterally into the curb before our bodies started dragging along the pavement.
The force of the impact with the curb was almost exactly equal to the force of the bike and us, and so it simply pitched us straight up again, and then the bike tilted clear over and dumped us onto the lawn on the far side of the curb. It really was a gentle landing in nice luscious, green spring grass.
I fully expected us to just get back on the bike and continue as though nothing had happened – that would be the Jay Sloop way, after all. But such impacts aren’t so kind on bicycle wheels. They looked more like figure eights, than straight and true wheels.
As I recall, no one came out of the houses there to chat with us, like they did the time I lost a lot of skin doing something very similar on this very same corner – so we simply hid the bike in their bushes, [Yes, really!] and walked the two or three blocks to church.
After church we returned in the car to retrieve the mangled bike and head home.
What we remember after times like these is interesting.
On one hand, I remember feeling close, amused and mature, engaging with my father in banter that evening.
On the other, I couldn’t ever really understand the fascination of biking everywhere where the risk of scraped or mangled body parts was so real to me. I mean, I like riding a bike – but not if I’m going to crash and burn. I suppose the number of times he’d crashed and burned like that was only a few times in thirty or forty years – while mine was a good half-a-dozen over just a few years. So, I’m sure that impacted my perception of the risk involved.
But while I dreaded the bad stuff that seemed so imminent, I recall times spent with Dad that I didn’t get very often. I remember bright sunny mornings – green grass and flowers. I remember the warm night, riding home from some church function, just Dad and I.
And clearly amnesia must have set in, since my daughter can tell you of the many times I’ve come home banged up and bleeding from my adult misfortunes while biking and skating. So, I’ll take the easy way out and claim the daffiness is just genetic.
Well, that’s all I have for tonight.
Thanks for all your kind emails, posts, cards and calls. We love you too.