Advertisement

The Accident: A Moped, A Secret, And A Life Lesson Learned

"I decided to tell my children my story," writes Bill Eville. "My son Hardy echoed my older brother when he said to me, 'What the hell were you thinking?'" (JD-Shoot/flickr)
"I decided to tell my children my story," writes Bill Eville. "My son Hardy echoed my older brother when he said to me, 'What the hell were you thinking?'" (JD-Shoot/flickr)
This article is more than 4 years old.

When I was 16, before I got my driver’s license, I biked seven miles each day after school to a gym to work out on Nautilus equipment, which was relatively new at the time, and so, I figured, worth the trip. The bike ride was mostly uphill, which meant that I could coast almost the entire way home. I moved fast -- so fast that, one afternoon, a woman making a left turn didn't see me and clipped my back tire. I can still see her front bumper, shiny and metallic, which I knew I wasn’t going to clear. I went tumbling down the road, and when I finally stopped rolling and stood up, I was bleeding from a good-sized cut on my leg, and my shoulder ached. Otherwise, I was fine. My bike was a mangled wreck, though.

The woman gave me and my bike, which was in pieces, a ride home. We were both shaking and too shocked to talk, both at what had happened and what had not happened. It felt like a miracle to be sitting there bleeding all over her seat covers instead of lying in the street.

As clear as that bumper catching my back tire is the image of my mother sitting at my bedside weeping, and yet still I didn’t speak to her.

She paid for my broken bike and my medical expenses. My parents suggested I use the bicycle money to start saving for a used car. I had a better idea: I wanted to buy a moped that a friend was selling. I could buy it that week.

My parents said no way.

I became incredibly angry at their decision. It was my money, I argued, so who were they to say no? They had no right, I reasoned, in the way that only a 16-year-old with no clue about life but so sure of his superiority can.

In my defense, the fact that blood had been shed on the way to earning that money played a part. My skin was literally in the game.

My parents stood firm. No way, they said. You will hurt yourself. They could not bring themselves to say the word die, at least not in my presence, but of course my being killed is what they feared. For some reason, this never crossed my mind. I only thought they were being mean, when really, they were loving me.

Advertisement

I retaliated in a way that still turns my stomach today, makes me wonder how I could have been so cruel: I stopped talking to them for nearly two months.

As clear as that bumper catching my back tire is the image of my mother sitting at my bedside weeping, and yet still I didn’t speak to her.

I must come to my defense once again. Just a few weeks before my bike accident, my older brother Jim left for his freshman year of college. We had shared a room our whole lives. We shared friends, we spent winter afternoons together on the wrestling mat and summers on the Vineyard. Some brothers fight or at least argue. We did neither. I loved my brother with my whole teenage heart, and when he left for college, I cried myself to sleep at night for a full week.

I like to think this played a part in my silent stance. I was in a state of mourning and lashing out. To think otherwise — that I was just a terrible kid — hurts too much.

In the end, it was my brother who stepped in and fixed the situation when he came home for Thanksgiving. With equal parts genuine bafflement and firmness, he asked me what the hell I was doing and told me to get over myself immediately. I did as I was told.

My parents and I have never talked about those days, and for a long time they remained buried in the recesses of my subconscious. But after two female college lacrosse players, both 19 and visitors to Martha's Vineyard, were injured in a recent accident that claimed the leg of one, that summer resurfaced. As my heart went out to the two girls and their parents, I decided to tell my children my story. They are 12 and 8 years old now and looked at me aghast when I described how I treated Grandma and Pawpy. My son Hardy echoed my older brother when he said to me, "What the hell were you thinking?"

I told them I didn’t really know, even after all these years, but that there was also more to the story, something I never told my parents.

I showed the scars to my kids, in particular a thick one on my thigh. I wanted it to tell them everything about life, from parental love to the flaws of their father.

The following year, just before high school graduation, I did get on a moped. A buddy and I went for a ride with me driving, even though I had never been on a moped before, let alone driven one. Within a few miles, we crashed. The front wheel locked on a tight turn, and I sailed over the handlebars. My buddy rolled off the back. We were both cut up badly but not seriously hurt. I wore long pants for weeks, even into summer, to hide the scabs from my parents.

I showed the scars to my kids, in particular a thick one on my thigh. I wanted it to tell them everything about life, from parental love to the flaws of their father.

That scar means a lot to me. When I was younger, it reminded me how much my parents loved me and tried to protect me. And now that I am a father, it connects me to the pain of parents everywhere, trying desperately to keep our kids safe but knowing that it is never enough.


Editor's Note: A version of this essay originally appeared in the Vineyard Gazette.

Read More By Bill Eville:

Bill Eville Cognoscenti contributor
Bill Eville is the managing editor of the Vineyard Gazette. 

More…

Advertisement

Advertisement