I watched the dawn burst across the dark morning sky from the seat of my motorcycle and wondered how the day would go. Would I enjoy the trip? Would the weather be good? Would I finish it without any mechanical problems and without accident? Would we make it to Zion? Would I make it to see my new grandson?
Zion is an interesting word full of symbolism. Originally it was a mountain outside of Jerusalem, but over the years the word has taken on the meaning of a utopian society where everyone lives in peace and cares for each other both spiritually and temporally. Several religious groups seek to establish “Zion” where their followers can be free from the toil and trouble of the world. My goal for the day was not so lofty. I simply wanted to ride trouble free from Gilbert, AZ, to Zion National Park in Southern Utah, and then on to Provo, Utah, the next day.
|Riding into the storm with lightning in the clouds|
I met up with Tom and Tim, two of my riding buddies, and we headed northbound watching the sun come up over the mountains. As we climbed in elevation, I listened to the playlist of 80’s music my daughter helped me put together the night before. Back in the day when I was listening to those songs, the world was full of gloom and doom—the Cold War, hostages in Iran, nuclear winter, etc. I never expected my life to turn out as good as it has. Lately, however, I feel like the best days are behind me. It’s a nagging feeling that lurks in the back of my head like some dirty thought I have disciplined into the recesses of my mind in an attempt to remain virtuous and can’t seem to shake. Tomorrow doesn’t hold the promise that it used to, but today I am on my motorcycle climbing a winding mountain road watching the sunrise with friends. I have been blessed.
|Three BMW R1200 RT motorcycles without riders|
My grandson is inheriting a less than perfect world. Zion is still just some ethereal place longed for by the faithful. The world is still full of conflict, trouble, and despair. I hope he gets to experience some of the great things I have experienced and that his life will be better than mine. I hope the world he inherits from my generation is a better place than the world I inherited, but when I watch the news I can tell that our world is still a long way from Zion. Maybe Zion will be possible in his lifetime.
Riding motorcycles is risky, but that’s part of the enjoyment. Having a baby is also risky. Women shake hands with the Grim Reaper to bring a child into this world. Sometimes the Grim Reaper wants more than a handshake, and women have to slap him across the face. Only a mother can understand what if feels like to stare death in the face in order to produce life. Only a mother understands the physical cost of delivering a child. Thankfully, we all benefit from a mother’s risky endeavor and enjoy the fruits of her labor. Each child renews our hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
We traversed mountains, crossed the painted desert, and endured an afternoon thundershower, but we arrived at Zion National Park without accident or incident. The towering canyons of painted rocks against a blue sky reminded me of majestic temples. Man may build tall towers and broad domes, but God’s works of architecture are unrivaled.
|Zion motorcycle selfie|
After a long day of riding we enjoyed dinner (topped off with pie) and headed to bed. My riding buddies were traveling in different directions the next day. I would be traveling solo to meet my grandson.
A thunderclap woke me up at 0454. I could hear the rain pelting the windows and checked the radar. The only storm in Utah was right over my head. Fortunately, I had recently purchased some good rain gear, and now my ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. By 0600 the worst of the rain had passed and I climbed on my bike in the dark. Tom waved at me from his hotel window as I pulled out of the parking lot and rode off into the storm. I had an appointment to meet my first grandson, and was determined not to let a little rain stop me. However, I must admit that I took things a bit slower than usual, especially when I passed flashing signs warning of deer. Would I make it without incident or accident? Would meeting my first grandson be all that I hoped it would be?
As I rode, I wondered how I was supposed to feel about being a grandfather. Everyone tells me that being a grandparent is the best thing ever. My friends say it’s much better than being a parent, or that grandkids are the payback for all the struggles as a parent. I knew my wife was giddy, but I wasn’t sure how I felt.
I can honestly say that being a father is the best thing I have ever done. It has brought me more joy and happiness than I ever expected. It has stretched me in ways I never knew possible. As a father, my emotions have ranged between the extremes—worry, fear, elation, joy, impatience, frustration, anger, and yes, happiness beyond compare. I was afraid that being a grandfather might somehow diminish the greatest experience of my entire life. I didn’t want to adopt some cynical attitude about my struggles as a father because being a grandfather was so much better. I wanted it to add to my joy, not diminish the struggle, or joy, of fatherhood.
The rain subsided and the sky burned with streaks of red, yellow, and orange as the sun came up. I wasted no time and only stopped when I needed gas or a bathroom break (which is more often than I like as I get older). Somewhere overhead my wife was flying to Salt Lake City, and I needed to arrive around the same time she did. Fortunately, I didn’t hit any of the deer the flashing signs warned me about.
I arrived ahead of schedule and traded the thrill of the motorcycle for the safety of a rental car. When we pulled up to my son’s small basement apartment, my wife was so excited that she jumped out of the car before it stopped rolling. I took a deep breath and tried not to let my emotions get away from me. I was holding it all in. How would I feel when I held my grandson? Would it be everything my friends told me it would be? Would I take one look at that beautiful baby and suddenly have disdain for my parental journey thus far? Would I mock the years of struggle, the frustrating nights, and the moments of sheer joy that fatherhood had brought me?
I entered the apartment and found my grandson doing what newborn babies do—crying, eating, sleeping, and filling diapers. I washed my hands and waited my turn to hold him. When my daughter-in-law put him in my arms, all my fears melted away. I found myself transported back to my early years as a father pacing the floor with a crying baby and worrying how I was going to provide for all his or her needs, but when I looked up at my grown son and his wife, the sting of worry melted away.
I suddenly got it. Being a grandparent is awesome because your children have taken over the burden of the parental struggle. Grandparents are there to love, support, and spoil. My years of parental happiness had not ended. They had just been multiplied. I smiled and relaxed.