Straight Paths

Jerry and Melanie, “Mel”, have been married for 44 years. Jerry is “Dad” to Sarah and Joel and he is “Pappy” to a passel of grandchildren, Thor, Aprillia, Kegan, Ransom, Crew, Jonas and Callan. And for over 45 years, Jerry has been “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) to me. When Jerry and I reflect on the things we’ve done, where we could have ended up, we both realize and declare, “If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse where would this ship be?”

Jerry is an old hippie. He met Mel while he and a friend were hitchhiking from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to “Icthus”, an outdoor Christian music festival in Wilmore, Kentucky. Jerry reflected, “We caught a ride outside Lexington with a man who had a gun lying on the seat of his car. He asked us where we were headed and when we told him ‘to a Christian music festival’, he said, ‘I don’t know anything about anything like that.’” When the fellow stopped at a red light, Jerry and Mike spotted a bumper sticker on the car in front of them that read, “Honk if you love Jesus”. So they jumped out, ran up to the car and jumped in. It just so happene, that Mel and a group of friends from Portsmouth were heading to “Icthus” too. Jerry reflected, “Mel was pretty cute”; the rest is history.

Jerry has repeatedly told me, “I have a fear of being normal,” but I’ve assured Jerry, time and time again, that he doesn’t have anything to worry about. Jerry is also a motorcycle enthusiast and from a young age he’s had “a need for speed” (“Top Gun”). I recently watched a YouTube video of a guy test riding a Suzuki GSXR 1000 that reminded me of Jerry. The fellow reported, “This bike is crazy fast … The people this is a good bike for is the person who is doing some type of track days … you have to be experienced enough that you are dragging your knee … or you have to have something wrong with your head”. After watching the video I thought, “How does this guy know Jerry?” Just saying!

Jerry’s love for motorcycles is a family tradition. His father, “Ace”, owned an Indian dealership in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and a BSA dealership in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Jerry reflected, “I remember riding a Motoguzzi with a sidecar down the alley behind my dad’s garage. I was around 15 then and I only weighed 120 pounds. The bike was really heavy and I couldn’t hold it up without the side car. I also rode other bikes that dad had. But I didn’t own a bike of my own until I moved to Portsmouth (age 19). I bought a Yamaha 100 dirt bike and rode a lot with my friend, Mike. When I moved to Van Wert a couple years later I bought a Suzuki 500 T or TT. It was a two-stroke. Later I bought a Suzuki GS 11 E, which was the fastest street bike ever made at that time. It would do 140 miles an hour. I rode the wheels off that bike.”

Jerry’s enthusiasm for bikes and for riding persisted throughout the years, and when Jerry was 45 I received a call, “I’ve always wondered if I could be good at racing, whether or not I have what it takes to be competitive. I’m thinking about going to racing school, but some people think I’m too old or that it’s too dangerous. What do you think?” I suggested, “You never know what you can do until you try. The question is, can you be satisfied without ever knowing?”

Well, Jerry took the plunge; he entered the adventure. He enrolled in racing school at Road Atlanta, trained for two days and raced on the third day. He affiliated with the Western-Eastern Racing Association (WERA) and after a couple seasons qualified for the Grand National Finals at Road Atlanta. Jerry finished 7th in the nation in the lightweight twin class. A couple years later Jerry and I stood beside the track at Road Atlanta and watched his son, Joel, age 15, place second in the nation.

Jerry and I reflected upon his decision, at age 45, to take the plunge, to test his skills at racing. Again I suggested, “It just goes to show you that you never know what you can do until you try.” Then Jerry replied, “No Loren, it’s much more than that. You’ll never know who you are until you try.” Jerry’s comment reminds me of a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”

“In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will prosper.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6)

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at . You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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