This morning, my husband, Mr. Pawpower and I some how got into a conversation about our first bicycle experiences as children, and this inspired me to write about mine here.
I was born with
<"Optic Nerve Hypoplasia/Septo Optic Dysplasia">
This is a congenital brain malformation which can cause, among other things, blindness, and short stature because the pituitary gland is damaged and does not produce growth hormone. I stopped growing when I was around three or four years old and did not begin growing again until I started receiving human growth hormone injections at the age of eleven.
My parents always encourage and expected me to be just like everyone else. I played with my sighted sisters, and our sighted friends. I was basically an ordinary kid, with the exception of not being able to ride a bike because there wasn't one small enough for me.
Once I began growth hormone treatment, I started growing rapidly. Before long, I was tall enough to reach the pedals on my sisters bike.
I have always had especially crappy balance, and learning to ride a bike-- even with training wheels-- was quite a challenge. I had to focus on the bike, focus on my environment with my hearing and my very limited sight, and coordinate my arms and legs to move around objects in my path. After a while I got pretty good at the whole training wheels thing.
It was time for the moment of truth... The training wheels were removed and I spent many hours in the summer between sixth and seventh grade getting on the bike, pedaling a few feet, losing my balance, falling off the bike, getting up and repeating the entire process.
I will always remember the first time I actually rode for a period if time longer than a minute. The sun was just setting and my mom had called us girls in to get baths and get ready for bed. I begged for "just one last try."
I got on the bike, determined as hell that I was going to do it this time. I started off-- heading west, toward the setting sun. I focused on pedaling, keeping the handlebars straight, looking ahead, and keeping my balance. I wove around like an inebriate, but eventually I did it, I was riding the bike. I rode round and round and round our street, laughing my head off and so proud of myself. Unfortunately, I got distracted by the thrill of it all, lost my concentration, and hence, control of the bike. I flew ass over teakettle and landed in a heap in the road, tangled up with my sister's red bike, still laughing like a maniac.
I practiced riding the level streets at my mom's house. When I got good enough so I wasn't falling on my face every other time, I decided to take my new bike-riding skillz to my father's house to try it out on the streets there.
My father lived in a subdivision, at the very top of a pretty steep hill. I was confident that I could handle it-- after-all, two weeks had passed since I had last fallen off my bike at my mom's house.
I started off at the top of the hill, clutching the handlebars for dear life, and focusing on the street ahead. I pushed off and began pedaling. Because of the grade of the slope, my bike began picking up speed, rapidly. I got about half way down this very long hill when I made the startling realization that I was no longer in control of the bike-- gravity had taken over. I went faster and faster, the handlebars began swiveling back and forth and it was all I could do to maintain control of this mad beast of a bike. Unfortunately, in my effort to slow the bike down, I neglected to watch where I was going. This led to my face, meeting a mailbox at the bottom of the hill with a great deal of force. The mailbox stopped me in my tracks and I flew off the back of the bike which continued on for a few more feet before falling over like a wounded pony. It hurt, it hurt a very great deal. I do recall a substantial amount of blood being shed.
The neighbors were horrified; the little blind girl riding a bike! What were her parents thinking! I cleaned off the blood, retrieved my bike, and lined up at the top of the hill once again.
This glimpse into my childhood tells a lot about my character. Call it determination, call it stupidity or stubbornness, or just plain force of will. Whatever it is; I possess it in spades.
In december of that year, I turned thirteen. I sang in the school choir and we had a concert on my birthday. I remember going home once the concert was finished, expecting to enjoy a bit of birth day cake and some presents. My father told me to go into my room and change into my pj's first. I was rather surprised when the rest of my family followed me up stairs. I opened the door to find my very own bicycle assembled at the foot of the bed. It was a Huffy. It was the palest pink. It was one of the best birth day presents I think I have ever received. It was a lesson to me that if you work hard, get up when you fall, clean up the blood and continue pressing onward that you can make your dreams happen.