May 302011
photo by DALE DIAZ
Anything that requires helmets has never been my thing. I thought about that as I painstakingly navigated my very first ATV (all-terrain vehicle) through the Bohol countryside.  It occurred to me, out in the middle of nowhere, that my automatic shunning of any activity that needs head gear might be traced to the death of a much loved uncle, one of my mother’s favorite cousins. 
Tito Benny was young, warm, funny, and father to gorgeous twins.  As a child, I remember the bottomless grief that surrounded us during his funeral and the strange siren sound that filled the chapel on the last day. It was his widow’s wail–an ethereal sound I will forever associate with pure pain. That was my first lesson on loss and it was a hard one.
But our children lead us to untold destinations and on this particular trip, my boys brought me to this place of reckoning:  a vehicle that required a helmet.  I suppose it can be described as a motorcycle with four wheels and that gives some kind of consolation when that’s all you have on your side. I tried to scan the place for any other kind of vehicle that didn’t require me to learn a new skill or don the dreaded metal head wrap, but the only tandem ride they had was under repair.  I wasn’t about to lose sight of my boys or hand them over blindly to the locals just because I didn’t like the idea of helmets and rides.  So, at the ripe middle age of 44, I donned a smelly helmet and got on the thing with wheels.
The first thing they make you do is drive the ATV on a little practice trail. Of course I drove straight into the grass and knocked down a wooden pole;  I forgot that brakes are useful things.  You press them and then you stop, hopefully before you destroy property or body parts. I use my feet for brakes, but for this particular vehicle, that doesn’t work. Once I got my hard-wired brain around that detail, I was okay. D thinks I held everyone up with my lack of speed and skill, but I don’t think it matters. Our boys had a grand time. No one else complained.  All they care about is that they got to drive their own ATVs. I saw a lot of butterflies on the way, too, and I don’t think anyone who zips through life for the sake of speed sees all the lovely details. I did.
So I finally did the helmet-and-wheels combo, but I did not forget to take in the sights, the lush and lovely Bohol countryside, its mud and manure, but also the birds, butterflies and dragonflies, the children who waved at us, unaware of the threshold I was crossing, and the grandmother who flashed me a smile of solidarity.

I’m thankful that the helmet, ATV and I had a life-giving experience.  It made me remember Tito Benny and his wonderful laugh.

 Posted by at 6:59 pm

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