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Column: Life not always smooth sailing, even if road is

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They say it’s the little things in life that mean the most.

I couldn’t agree more because for three days last week highway department workers were repaving the road in front of our house. We residents of the neighborhood no longer must dodge potholes or inch across the crumbling culvert at the bottom of the hill. We are free from running the obstacle course of disintegrated pavement that was our country road.

Free at last!

The new road is as smooth as a billiards table, ideal for bike riding.

“This road repair is perfect timing,” my wife said, thinking of the two grandkids who were scheduled to stay with us. Phineas, the 4-year-old (“Almost 5, Grandpa”), had just learned to ride without training wheels. “We should bring the kids’ bikes when they come down,” she said, and we did.

I went for a ride with Phineas around his quiet neighborhood in Indianapolis just a day or so after he had taken that first two-wheeled bike ride into the next phase of his life. He had good control and moved confidently, although he tended to thread from one side of the nearly deserted midmorning street to the other.

It’s a learning curve, I told myself, as I reminded him to focus on his proper place on the roadway. He was as excited and single-minded as only a young child can be about his bike and his desire to ride.

After they got to our house, it was actually Grandma Becky who first went with him on the new road. I could hear Phineas crying before I could see him coming bikeless down the driveway.

From Becky I learned that he had gotten too close to the edge of the road and had taken a tumble. His knee was bleeding a bit, and his elbow was scraped, and he was sobbing. We patched him up with magic Band-Aids, some juice and some cuddling, and soon he was calmed. He was also quite clear that he was not going to ride his bike anymore.

Although I couldn’t remember my first bicycle wreck, I told him about some other memorable ones I had endured both as a child and as an adult. To the kids in my neighborhood, bruises and scrapes were seen as badges of courage, I said, and maybe he will see it that way at some point. Becky said something about getting right back on the bike when you fall off.

“Do you want to go to the end of the driveway with me and walk your bike back to the house?” I asked. No, he didn’t, so Becky and I let him be.

Getting back up after getting knocked down is a life lesson, of course, and some learn it later than others. I suppose there are some people who never really understand that it is a choice one must make. You must choose to persevere, to be determined, to keep on keeping on. But that decision is one each individual must make depending on the circumstances.

Phineas kept himself occupied for a while with toys, Sydney the Dog and his sister Adelaide. Perhaps the trauma of the Big Fall started to fade, perhaps the scrapes stopped hurting so much, perhaps the windswept joy and newfound freedom of the two-wheeled bike re-emerged in his mind, but eventually he and Grandma decided that he would like to see the big white dog next door and just maybe he could ride his bike to do that. And they did.

For the rest of the visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, we took several rides. Riding a bicycle isn’t too complicated once you get the hang of it. Rolling down the road is a simple pleasure, really, especially if it is a smooth surface. But then again, it’s the little things, don’t you know.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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