Some 20 years ago my dad laid his motorcycle down in the middle of a curvy country road in southern Elkhart County.
I was on the back of it.
“Bam!” My left elbow jammed into the concrete. The monster machine, a beautiful Harley-Davidson, screamed and skidded from under us, coming to rest in the roadside gravel. We all, including the bike, were a bit shaken but largely unscathed.
A kind passersby drove me home. My dad drove his dented-up bike back.
If you knew my dad, you’d understand he prefers I use that accurate language — that he “laid it down” — rather than say we had an “accident” or it crashed. “It” — the bike – did not crash. For the record, things do not crash. People crash things.
So my dad, turning too hard or too fast or a combination of both into a curve in part to please his thrill-seeking daughter, crashed his Harley. And he has always said it was his fault, not an “accident,” but perhaps a result of a moment of carelessness, of which he has few.
For a couple of years after the crash, I would, occasionally, think about those few seconds — the excitement of the tight turn; leaning closer and closer and closer to the pavement; the split second of “Bam!” followed by the screeching bike and my own stunned silence; the panic of “Am I OK? Is my dad dead? Ohmygod we CRASHED.”
I understand now some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress — reliving the event; thinking a slew of “what ifs” and imagining different outcomes, both better and worse; even anger that it happened at all, that the event affected me so.
Traumatic events can change us, and that angered me.
I did get back on a bike with my dad a few years later for a group ride. I knew that the crash had been an uncharacteristic breech in his meticulousness not likely to be repeated.