by Marv Friedlander, Individual AEU Member
“Marvin, I’m not excited about your motorcycle. It’s dangerous,” Mom declared when I arrived home with my newly acquired machine.
After working all summer, I had earned enough to purchase a motorcycle. A bright red Honda 305 cc. A motorcycle that I could ride to high school. A machine on which I could feel the wind blow stiffly through my hair with a girlfriend holding on for dear life. The excitement suddenly ended when an inattentive driver backed out from her driveway directly into my cycle without a look. I took a tumble, she drove off.
“You only injured your leg this time,” Mom complained. “I’m scared every day you ride.”
I looked at her face, seeing her anxiety for the first time.
“I have no appetite; I don’t sleep well. You do what you want but I need to tell you how your choice is affecting me.”
Perhaps that is the first time I felt something I later learned is called empathy. I knew that Mom’s parenting style was mostly geared toward having us make decisions so that we might become independent. She made exceptions when her children engaged in an activity that would result in irreparable harm. My motorcycle riding had not reached that level, yet…
“All right,” I announced. “I’ll sell it.”
“Great. We’ll help you buy a car instead.”
So, I put an advertisement in the local newspaper. We agreed that the motorcycle would remain in the garage. And either she would sell it for cash, or I would sell it depending on who was available. Two days later, Mom told me that she had sold the bike for cash.
“The first fellow came to see the motorcycle,” she explained. “He wanted to give me a check. I told him we only accepted cash. He said that he would go to his bank and return. He asked me not to sell it to anyone else. He would pay exactly what we wanted.
“Oh, so you sold him the cycle?”
“No. Another guy called. I told him the motorcycle was still available for cash only. He arrived and purchased it. He paid fifty dollars less than what we asked.”
“Then,” Mom continued, “the first guy arrived with his money. He was quite angry after I told him that the motorcycle had been sold.”
“Why didn’t you wait for the first guy to return?” I asked.
“He was such a nice boy,” Mom explained. “I was just not willing to have him get into an accident. I envisioned his mother fretting every day.”
I never blamed Mom for selling the bike to the second guy – after all it was a matter of empathy.