From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Like Riding a Bike

Kind words produce their own image in men’s souls, and a beautiful image it is.

Blaise Pascal

I sat watching Dad one afternoon while Mom shopped. He was unable to walk since his stroke and had to rely solely on others for most of his needs. As he slumped in his wheelchair with his head hanging down, he seemed to be off in another world, content and yet somehow defeated. He wasn’t his smiling self today; I wondered what he was thinking.

Sometimes he’d get so frustrated with himself and with me because all he saw were his weaknesses, and all I still saw were his strengths. I was compelled to remind him of all that he had done as I tried to encourage him to do all that he could still do. It was a battle of the wills. He’d get angry when I coaxed him to exercise his legs, but that was a small price to pay if I could motivate him.

So in another attempt I quietly said to him, “Hey, Dad, do you remember the day you taught me to cross the big street on my bike?” His focus suddenly broke, and he laughed heartily.

His speech was slurred. “Yeah, I remember,” he proclaimed, raising his head. “You got to the middle of the street and froze.” His face lit up; his eyes and mouth smiled.

Ahh, there’s my dad, I thought. “Remember, I was so scared and frustrated I couldn’t move. You walked with me from one side of the street to the other, time after time, with your strong arms holding on to me, guiding me. With your gentle voice and calming smile, you repeated, ‘It’s okay, you’re doing fine.’” Dad nodded and grinned. “And I was; I made it to the other side. You opened up my world, Dad, helping me to be all I could be.”

And as we recalled the day, he held his head up higher, and soon he was ready to exercise his legs. With a gentle voice and a calming smile, I said, “It’s okay, Dad, you’re doing fine.”

Linda Ferris

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