Trike Hike - Poem by Margaret Kollmer
'How come you can leave Barkley to travel the whole world but when I ask you to visit me in Jo'burg you say you can't do it? '
My son, John, is a doer. He does trips, things and people. He's the proverbial Action Man and he gives me the willies. He expects me to do the things he does but I can't. From the old days. The days when I could get in my car and go anywhere I wished. Safely.
Now in my golden years I'm too nervous to take the car out of the garage for fear of an avaricious lurker. Jerkers are okay (did I really say that?) but lurkers are another story.
It's true what he says, though. I can and do travel the whole wide world and get by famously. I take buses, trains, trams, planes, ferries. The whole toot. And unlike the Titanic, I sail on and on. But ask me to get myself out onto the N12, N17 or various M-roads and I go into stop mode.
So what happened on that fateful day just one week ago to change my perspective on life? Not only my own but, more importantly, that of my whole family. The day my grandchildren saw a new granny emerge right before their eyes.
As I said, John does everything that moves and if it doesn't, he'll sure as heck do whatever it takes to make it move. Even me. So it was that last Sunday, John decided that he was going to do a trike flip in his microlight. Imagine the gasps when Granny announced that she wanted to go along for the ride. What on earth possessed me? I must've been desperate for a little self-worth boosting. Or something.
John was delighted and immediately got me strapped into the seat. Oh, dear Lord, I cried inwardly. What had I done? I wanted to scream but to call a halt and climb down ignominiously would only endorse my already shaky reputation. As I said before, I am much admired for my world solo travels but here in my own country, with my own family, I am a cissy.
The propeller behind me was turning. Who on earth would put a propshaft and propeller behind a grandmother? Slowly, the machine started to wobble and move in the direction of foward.
I tried to hold onto the handgrips at my side but they're too low and in any event my hips just spilled over, not leaving much room for a good grip.I needed a basket to contain all of me, not just a silly little seat.
I stared at the back of John's head in front of my face. Where did he get his wavy hair...oh wottheheck...what was I doing thinking about his wavy hair. Tentatively, I placed my hands on his shoulders but heck, my hands are small and his shoulders thick, wide and large. It was difficult to get a good solid hand-hold.
The machine pushed forward and was gaining speed. I gripped hard.
'Don't dig, Ma.' came his voice through our connected earphones.
I wanted to say it's all very well for you, you have a whole bar of solid steel to hang onto. I have only your shoulders and no grip to speak of.
I took a deep, deep breath. The microlight accelerated at an alarming rate. It seemed as though I was in a 747 without a roof. The safety belt didn't seem safe at all. I could fall out! In fact I thought I WAS going to fall out.
Suddenly I knew why I was here. My number was up. Today was my date with destiny and I was going to take John with me. Oh no! He has three children to bring up. Oh dear. I was scared out of my wits and started singing 'Nearer my God to Thee, ' as we soared into the sky and the earth moved steadily away. I felt nearer the propeller than ever and feared for my legs. I closed my eyes.
John was concentrating hard but I could tell he was calm. A trained parabat and sometime chopper pilot, he knew what he was about. I tried to feel safe but I was terror-struck. I heard him through my earphones speaking to air traffic control and other pilots within range discussing the bumpy weather. Bumpy? This was bumpy? This was abnormal? Used as I was to jetplane turbulence, I'd considered bumps normal but if those guys sad the 'road' was bumpy now then that meant only one thing. Trouble!
My grip on John's shoulders tightened and again he yelled at me not to dig. I wanted to faint. Should I just lean over sideways and fall out and put an end to my misery?
Instead, and in a voice carefully modulated so as to not instil any notion of fear on my part on John and thus cause him to do something drastic like a nose-dive, I spoke quietly:
'I can't do this Johnny....I really can't. Do you think you could take me in please? I think I left the bath tap running at home.' Desperate times call for desperate lies.
'Hang on, Ma. I can't hear you. I'm concentrating.'
'Okay, ' I said weakly, 'isn't this fun? '
It suddenly seemed the right thing to do. To give him the confidence of knowing that his mother trusted him with her life. It's one thing thinking things like that but quite another meaning them. But a Mom has to do what a Mom has to do.
He sensed my new found comfort and obviously relieved that his Ma was not going to do anything silly now, he proceeded to give me a flying lesson. Dearest son of mine, don't you realise the last thing I want is flight lessons. I just want to go home. I am doing my best to appear brave. Just for you. So you don't call me a cissy.
I opened my eyes briefly and took in the surrounding countryside. For a moment I felt wonderful. I was king, or queen, of all I surveyed. I was flying like a bird. The sense of freedom was exhilarating and I took a deep breath and relaxed my grip on John's shoulders.
A sudden bump caused me to lurch and somehow I found my hands on the steel bar which John was using to guide the machine.
I had to admire his cool even at that moment when he quietly asked me to put my hands back on his shoulders. Just as quietly I reacted as he must've hoped like heck I would. I was trembling but at the same time couldn't help but think he must be admiring my cool.
I closed my eyes again as he showed me all the controls and told me about atmospheric conditions and the purpose of this gauge and that dial. All I knew was that I just had to make the right noises and he'd be happy.
After a while, he spoke into the earphones and asked if I wanted to go back.
'No, not yet, ' I said feigning bravery. I can be very brave when I have to. 'Let's just circle the hangar so that I can wave at everyone, ' I shouted. My eyeballs rolled back even further as we slowly descended about a zillion metres.
'Great stuff, Gran! ' yelled Gregory from below.
'Cool, Gran, ' echoed Kevin. His sister Michelle waved gently. She felt for me, I know she did.
Despite my anxiety, I had felt very comfortable with John. He hadn't done any silly things or made any sudden turns or jolts. For the first time I started to relax as we soared once more into the heavens. I opened my eyes and looked around. The countryside looked so peaceful and tranquil and I felt faint stirrings of a sense of achievement coming all over me.
'We're going in now, ' said John, interrupting my thoughts and once again I was filled with trepidation.
Circling the area, we suddenly started to descend. Directly in line with the runway, the trike swooped down, down, down. It felt as though we were racing just centimetres above the earth but a short sharp bump of wheel on tarmac told me that we had just landed and I was still alive. And I'd survived a flight in a microlight.
We taxied in, ever slowly, and triumphantly I lifted a hand in greeting and smiled a huge smile.
'Yay, ' I enthused noisily, 'it was wonderful! Easy-peasy! Get the camera! '
'Would you do it again, Gran? ' asked Michelle with wide eyes.
'Of course, ' I smiled with a quick wink.
'So, ' said John, the great leveller as we slowly came to a halt, 'how come you can ride a trike in the sky and not drive out to our place in Jo'burg? '
I looked straight into his eyes and lifted an eyebrow:
'There are some things I can do and some that I can't.
This is just one of those I can.'
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