Friday, April 1, 2011

Mike and Fenway Park

Yesterday I biked to work and back, even after I said I was going to quit. Bad idea. It usually takes me about 35 minutes to bike the 9 miles to the shop. Yesterday came with a headwind of 20 mph and 25 mph gusts. Instead of moving along at 10-12 mph, I was pedaling like a banshee into a tornado force gale and covering all of 3 miles per hour most of the time. It took 2 full hours to get there. 36 hours later and I'm still exhausted.

When I got ready to bike home, I had a smile on my face because I knew it would be easy sailing with the massive tailwind I would have. Then I walked outside. It was dead still. The wind had died. My enthusiasm went the way of the wind.

I had to pedal with no help. About 3/4 of the way home, I heard a rig coming up behind me. It was my brother-in-law Bret. I flagged him down. For the first time in my biking career, I was a quitter.

I threw the 2-wheeler in the back of his truck with every ounce of the remaining energy I had left and climbed in. He took me home. I said thanks and walked toward the house. "Don't you want your bike?" he called.

"You can have it." I said as I struggled to find the energy to turn the front doorknob and walk into the house. I was done with biking for a while. 

So yesterday was a good day for us. Our baby boy Mike has spent the last couple of months in a crash course learning Portuguese for a Brazilian LDS mission. His visa was delayed so they sent him to Boston. A week later, he got his visa. After several more postponements this week, his missionary buddies in Boston ran him down to the airport to head south. He wanted to see Fenway Park where the Red Sox play so they stopped by the field for a minute.

Somebody snapped his pic and told him to check out the paper the next day. He was flying out but relayed the message to us. I called my bro Brent in New Hampshire last night and he ran down and bought a Boston Herald. Here's what he found on page 2 in the sports section...

I think the photographer had him put on a baseball shirt over his white shirt, tie and name tag for the picture. This is the last pic of Mike in the USA for the next 2 years.

So permit me to share a story or two about Mike. I wrote this piece a few years ago...

                 In 2005, I had thirteen-year-old Michael down at the shop doing various jobs. He didn't like working but I insisted. He thought if he worked 2 days out of the summer for me, I was abusing him. When I was a kid working for my dad, if we were able to weasel 2 days vacation out of our summer, my dad thought we were abusing him.

                The first day I came driving up to the shop and I saw Mike out in the parking lot running around, swinging his arms wildly. I was a little irritated that he was messing around and not working. 

                As I got out of my truck, he ran up to me very upset. Then I realized that several yellow jacket wasps had been playing tag with him. Mike likes games but on this day he was not in a gaming mood. He had been stung several times and wanted to go home. He acted like I made those wasps attack him.  I told him go back to work.

              The next day I had a bunch of steel tubing I needed cut into shorter pieces. I gave him a short primer on how to cut with the cold saw and then left him with the monotonous job.

A guy came by and started visiting with me. We went outside the shop for a half hour or so and looked at some equipment. Finally he left and I walked back inside the shop. Michael had had an accident. He didn’t have his shirt on and was crying. Immediately concerned, I asked him what was wrong and he led me over to the saw.

My cold saw is a very powerful saw with jagged metallic teeth that cuts through thick bars of steel without a hint of needing to slow down. It shows no mercy. It has a strong motor that is geared down for even more power. The on-off switch is located in a spot that is difficult to locate if you ever have a problem and need to shut it down.

Michael was cutting away when a tube ended up crooked in the cutting channel. He reached across the saw bed with his right arm to straighten it. The piranha-like teeth of the blade caught his shirt on the short sleeve of his right arm. It immediately started reeling in his shirt and pulling him into its deadly path. He got so close to the teeth that there were a few scratches on his arm.

He fought it. He twisted and pulled as hard as he could. The saw sucked the shirt relentlessly as he struggled to get away. His shirt began ripping and he was able to get the shirt to pull and rip away from his trunk and head. The shirt was torn in two. His ears were hurting from the pressure that it created around his head as he struggled out of it.

It was too close of a call. I have cut metal with that saw for years without a problem. One critical mistake in my judgment: I neglected to remember that Mike was not operating with the same experience level that I was.
I felt terrible. I was in shock. My dear little baby boy, by all rights, should have been sawn in half. The manner in which he got snagged and pulled in would have cut him in two from his right shoulder clear across his body had he not been able to pull himself free.

I honestly believe I could not have withstood the experience had he been killed. Walking into that shop and finding my boy in two pieces would have taken me over the edge.

 I have used that saw hundreds of times since. I never fail to think of Mike. I generally get tears in my eyes as I think of the terrible near-miss and the miracle of escape that Mike and I had that day. It’s been years and I’m still very rattled and emotional about the experience. Tonight, I went down to Mike’s room and hugged him.

It is one of the closest and most traumatic experiences I’ve been through.

               He wasn't the easiest kid to raise. But after I think back on my youth, I can honestly say he wasn't the hardest kid to raise either. When he was a junior and senior in high school, he and his friends locked on to the idea that they were going to be state football champs. He worked his tail off. Many others did too.

They did it. This picture was on the first page of the sport section of the Boston.., I mean Tri-City Herald in the winter of 2009.

He's #51. After a sack during THE game.

This next picture shows him trying to pick off any stray germs that everyone else might have left on the trophy.

It was an exciting day for everybody from this area. Here's a clip I shot after the game...
Mike's final game

Mike opening up his call to find out that he's spending the next 2 years in Belo Horizonte, Brazil


Mama and Papa Wood said...

This experience with Mike made me think of when I almost cut Nate (age 18 mos.) in two, with the riding lawn mower when he ran up behind the bagger, which was too high for me to see him, as I started to back up. Shanae screamed & I immediately stopped. As I looked down, there Nate was crying with only his head visible. I lost it as I got off to pull him out, imagining the worst. HIs guardian angels were watching out for him that day, as the only damage was a slash mark from the blade, in the rubber on the heel of his little shoe (that I bought from you) & a sore head from hitting the back of his head on the sidewalk. I hugged him tight, as I sobbed & said a prayer of thanks! Those shoes experienced about 3 other near death experiences that summer. Needless to say, I had those little shoes bronzed!

Keep up the great stories, Ben!

Todd and Christianne said...

Haha, Michael made the newspaper! Great post, Dad. Todd and I love reading your blog. I was just telling Todd that story about Michael and the saw the other day.