The Look, For Father's Day

Pop on my first bike.

With "The Look" words weren't needed:

It was late in the summer of 1993 when I pulled around to the back of my parents home on my newest toy. I had been looking for a Sportster for several months and had just picked up a 1992 teal and cream 1200cc model with only 350 miles on the odometer. I was absolutely thrilled with the bike and anxious to show it off.

A friend of mine had recently bought a Harley and my father knew I was looking. But I had not told him about the Sporty preferring to surprise him. I figured he'd be pleased with the deal I got since he had willingly financed my first bike, a 1955 Harley way back in 1969.

I revved the engine a couple of times and even with the stock pipes it sounded good. I switched off and slipped out of my helmet as Pop came out the back door onto the deck grinning.


The 1992 Sportster:

"What do you think?" I asked.

"That's all right,' Pop said still smiling. "That Jimmy's?"

"No," I replied. "This one belongs to me - and the bank."

That's when I got The Look. He didn't say anything... but The Look said everything. Disapproval, disappointment and disbelief flashed in his eyes and the smile disappeared instantly. Mercifully, The Look was only on Pop's face for a second and I pretended not to notice. We went inside, drank some iced tea and I avoided any talk about The Look.

But I had seen it. The damage was done. I knew what Pop thought and I angrily resented it. I was 42 years old, married and had been a cop for 22 years. I was certainly entitled to make this decision.

Burt Reynolds said once during an interview that you're not a man until your old man tells you that you are. Pop and I had never had that conversation. Right about then I felt 42 going on 15.

When I got home I told my wife all about The Look. I pitched a "Sowell" fit and ranted like Dennis Miller on an amphetamine drip. I taked about how I deserved the bike and about how Pop had no right to make me feel guilty. But he had.

So for the next four years I took every opportunity to show him that I had not deserved The Look. Each time I found a bike comparable to mine with a higher price tag, I bragged. every pleasant riding experience was passed along. I proved I could ride it without getting hurt. And when I finally paid it off I triumphantly exclaimed "Money in the bank!"


Pop and me, 1951

At the same time I watched emphysema ravage the body of the man I would always love and respect the most. On August 21, 1997 before he breathed his last labored breath Pop turned to my mother and said of me, "He's number one."

Father's Day is June 16th. Those of you who still have your fathers should be thankful. I know I would trade every piece of American Iron that ever rolled out of Milwaukee for the privilege of getting The Look one more time.


Author's note:

I added the photos to the story here and changed the date of Father's Day to the correct one for 2013. Otherwise this is the same story published in the Lancaster News in 1998. I've learned a bit about writing since then and some other things as well I suppose. But anything I learned in life that was truly worth knowing I learned from Roy L. Sowell, my father.

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Comments 10 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I understand this so well, because my dad's silent disapproval was absolutely devastating...and usually correct. It only hurt because we loved them so much.

Beautifully written, and the sort of tribute we all understand.

BTW, I love the picture with the bike parked under the 'keep area clear at all times' sign! Could our Ronnie be a bit of a rebel?


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave an excellent comment. I never noticed the sign and don't have enough hair to be a rebel!


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

Good story, lessons we all learn, I liked it because my family all had harleys, I've owned around 10 of them.............believe it or not my wedding ring is Harley (only way to keep a ring on my finger) haha voted up


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks, Patriot for reading and I like Harley's too. I've turned to Triumph lately though...


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

" I never noticed the sign..."

"That's no excuse sir, so will you please put down the camera and step over to the curb with me? And I 'll need to see your license and registration."


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

"What happened officer, Krispy Kreme run out of doughnuts?"


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

"Smart-ass, huh? Fine, put your hands behind your back and we'll sort it out downtown."


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

"My uncle's the Mayor. You'll be directing traffic at the swinging bride in the snow on night shift in December!"


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Funny thing is, my dad actually was the mayor, and also the JP!

We lived in a tiny Iowa town that had a big dance hall, and on Saturday night, we had up to 2,000 people drinking and whooping it up. The owner used moon-lighting Cedar Rapids cops, and I got out of a lot of scrapes because I was the mayor's son. What the cops did not know was that Dad would have turned a blind eye had they hauled my sorry butt in, and I would have paid a fine or gone to jail, just like anyone else.

Dad was an honest man.

I enjoyed this, Ronnie!


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

"Dad was an honest man." Like father, like son.

It was fun. Thanks!

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