Motorcycle Mayhem

November 27th, 2013 by | Print


Motorcycle Mayhem

A few years back my grade school age boys were throwing the football around on our quiet, cul-de-sac on a warm September day.   I was working in the house and heard a loud roar of a motorcycle going by.  I knew it was probably the guy who lived at the end of the street who was taking one of his new toys out for a spin, so I kept on with my work.

After the motorcycle faded in the distance, my boys ran into the house to tell me that the “guy at the end of the street” almost ran them over with his Harley.  My eldest son, who has always been a very reliable story teller, said that the guy rode dangeoursly close to them and just said “get out of the way kid”. 

I had an instant and immediate swirl of thoughts and emotions.  My first reaction of “how dare he endager the lives of my boys” moved quickly to “who does this guy think he is”.  My boys could see the concern on my face.  And I could see they were waiting for me to do something big and my initial reaction was to defend them.  But then fear set it. 

I didn’t really know the 50-something guy who lived at the end of the street.  We would exchange obligatory and neighborly waves as he would drive by our house. We would emgage in some small talk during trick or treating every October, but we never had a realtionship and I doubt he even knew my name. 

The “guy at the end of the street” is a well known power broker in the community.  He’s a turnaround artist who buys and sells underperforming companies.  I’ve read about him over the years in the local business journals.  He’s obviously very rich and successful and enjoys all the accoutrements of his triumphs.  The guy exudes a “Type A” bravado and a “bigger-than-life” persona that quite frankly can be intimidating.

Now from everything I could surmise about my neighbor, the potential for intimidating young kids was not out of the realm of possibility.  Heck, I have to believe intimidation is probably what he does best and has made him a boatload of cash over the years at his trade.

I knew what I needed to do – I needed to take my boys to the end of the street, knock on his door and straighten out the situation.  I tried to strengthen my own resolve by reminding myself that “I’m the CEO of a big and successful company and I’m kind of a big deal myself”.  Unfortunately, positive pep talks rarely work – and the fear gripped me even harder.  What would I say? How could I say it without being accusatory?  How would he react?

At this point the fear became even greater and I’m sure my boys could see my initial intensity drain from my eyes.  I could see they were waiting for their dad to defend their safety and their honor.  It’s what every kid expects and deserves from his dad.  My dad stuck up for me a number of times while I was growing up and it always made me feel like a million bucks.  But all I could do was focus on myself and wallow in my fear.  I quickly went over the details of the incident with them again and did my darndest to convince them that he wasn’t as close as they had imagined and that he was probably just saying “hi kids”. 

In other words….I did nothing.   In doing nothing I taught my boys some pretty miserable lessons about what a man says and what a man does in this world.  In one fleeting moment I taught them not to trust your own instincts, avoid conflicts at all costs and create delusional stories in your head to justify your pathetic actions.  It was the lowpoint of my manhood. 

I immediately knew I totally wimped out but still couldn’t muster enough courage to face my fear.  The regret from this small but powerful incident still plagues me today.  But I’m glad it happened because it smacked me right in the face.  It forced me to confront the deep-seeded suspicion I knew about myself.  Something I could never say out loud and truly admit – I don’t believe I have the stuff it takes to be a real man.

 Sure I’ve done all the things your supposed to do to as a man in our society.  I’m happily married with three great kids and a successful career.  I give back to my community and church.  I’m a former college athlete and now coach my kids’ basketball teams.  But in the deepest part of my psyche, I knew something important was missing.  Somewhere along the way, I must have missed out on some of the important genetic material that makes up a man.  For whatever reason, at my middle age, I had to face the brutal fact that in my own estimation I had never earned my “Man Card”.  I had to once and for all admit that I was utterly clueless about what true masculinity looks like and how to apply it in my own life.

 This transforming incident sent me on a personal journey to develop a masculine blue print for the second half of my life.  It was a driving force in my writing the book “Man Quest: Leading Teenage Boys into Manhood”.   My hope is that dads and mentors will pick up Man Quest and actively teach the ways of manhood to their young men…so they’ll never have to wonder if they have what it takes.

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