Last post got me to thinking about the defining moments in any young man’s life. I am blessed in my own way to know what that moment was in my father’s life, or at least what he has told me that moment was. And in sharing that moment with me, I have a better grasp on what it means.
My dad, born in Minneapolis Minnesota in 1946 to Keith Gordon Wikle and Lucille Poole Wikle September 14th. My grandfather was pursuing his Phd at the University of Minnesota in Metalurgical Engineering. After completing his studies the family finally settled in Oak Harbor Ohio. My dad had what I would call the prototypical late 50’s early 60’s small town experience. He decided to pursue the Navy and an engineering degree like his father at the University of Michigan. But pretty soon he realized that he had neither the inclination or the interest in engineering and switched to business. Joined a fraternity (sigh), Sigma Chi, now banned on campus in Ann Arbor. He met my mom Sandra Reimer, from Gross Pointe Michigan, his freshman year. And they began dating pretty quickly.
In the summer preceding his senior year, 1967 the summer of love. The year before he would ship out as an ensign in the US Navy to Vietnam, my dad decided to ride cross country on his 1962 Triumph T100. He left Ann Arbor in late May with my grandpa’s gas card and a change of clothes. He set out like Ulyssess into the west. And this trip is the one I always hear him talk about. Those moments from the trip that come first in his mind, at least from all outward appearances. The long flat expanse of the plains on the first few days, the climb through the rockies, or ultimately; riding across death valley through a sandstorm. He always describes with particular relish how he left the desert with one side of his body sunburnt. He watched in slow wonder as the sand blasted the british racing green paint off the gas tank during that long day in the sun.
I’m sure there’s more to it than this… But all young people have that one road trip that stands out like no other, and his from the sounds of it was one heck of a road trip. He always talks about doing it again when he’s retired. I hope he gets to do it.
What those moments mean to him I can only speculate. But I can say what I think they meant. He got to roar over the country on a sweet bike for a summer before life took over. He got to be a rebel for a short while before becoming Lieutenant K Wikle for four years. Not that I think he regretted his military decision. But he’s always been a respectable rebel in a lot of ways. And maybe I want that too. His views on life always crack me up, he votes republican categorically but is socially liberal in every way that makes people who are republican cringe. I guess I am pretty far left of the line, but what do you expect from a guy who read Gramsci?
If I ask myself what my defining moments were prior to family, responsibility, jobs, houses, wives anything, I’m not sure what I would list at the moment. It seems there are so many lost moments prior to Laura, Gabriel, and Isabella. Certainly the time I spent abroad stands out as one of my biggies, but maybe they just set me up for later events.
Maybe another list is in order I dunno?
I found this a moving post.
“If I ask myself what my defining moments were prior to family, responsibility, jobs, houses, wives anything, Iâ€™m not sure what I would list at the moment.”
I think about this from time to time. I would agree with you that I think everything we experience before now was a set-up for later events. I had a few advenures when I was young and before I met my wife. A few relationships. A few successes and a few failures. All of it made me a better person and now I feel much more prepared to lead my daughter in the right direction. You want to be able to say “yeah, Ive done a few things and been a few places”.
Your father and I sound similar in politics. I vote republican but critisize Bush. I guess, for those of us who are moderates, we are looking for balance. It is becoming increasingly difficult to define ourselves. Everyone wants to know how I can be a conservative, eviromentalist, non-believer(religion), right-winger, etc. I don’t know the answer except I only believe what makes sense in my head and no party represents me fully. All sides have a good point.
I also look forward to touring across the country when I retire. I always assumed I would do it in my 50’s. Why do so many of us want to do this?
Anyway, great post and I enjoy your blog. If you are ever up in the Traverse City area, drop me a line. We have more good paddling up here than we know what to do with. See you on the water.