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.
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.