This was an awesome 50th birthday. I am very happy, extremely grateful and truly thankful to have made it this far; for I know I have kept my guardian angel really busy over these past 50 years. When I count the number of times I have tested the limits of my mortality, it’s a miracle that I’m even here.
When I was in the sixth grade, on a very rainy day, while rushing home on my bicycle from Haven Middle School, I was hit bar a car or you could say that a car was hit by me; but that’s just semantics; either way I lost.
I had recently won a beautiful red Schwinn Varsity bicycle in a Haven Middle School raffle. I remember telling my mom, when she encouraged me to buy a ticket, “OK, I’ll buy a ticket if only to help some needy kid win that bike.” Little did I realize that needy kid was going to be me. This would also be my first bicycle with handlebar breaks and I had no idea that break pads on a bicycle do not work well in the rain if at all.
I remember this experience like it was yesterday; it was raining cats and dogs, I was soaking wet and was riding as fast as I possibly could so that I could get home and out of the rain. I had just past Evanston Town Ship High School speeding down a slight hill just after crossing some railroad tracks and coming up on an intersection when a green Chevy Nova coming toward me turned left and into my path. The car was about 10 yards away when I applied my breaks and nothing happened; I mean my bike didn’t even slow down; the brakes were too wet, the car was too near and I was moving too fast; so I slammed into the right rear panel of the car and went flying over the trunk.
The car kept going, I jumped up, grabbed my disfigured bike from the middle of the road and watched the car disappear around the next corner. That’s when I noticed that my right leg was searing with pain, so I peered down at the ground and observed that my right gym shoe was very quickly changing to a dark red color as it was being drenched with blood pouring from a huge gash on my leg hidden beneath my blue jeans.
I limped over to a filling station across the street from where I had crashed dragging my critically wounded bike behind me and called my mom whom I hoped was still at Haven Middle School. When she picked up the phone, I told her that I was in a minor car accident with my bike, I was bleeding pretty badly and asked if she wouldn’t mind coming to get me at the filling station. Mom calmly said, “sure” and hung up on me. Five minutes later there she was driving up to the filling station. Mom literally threw me into the back seat of her Volvo and like speed racer drove me as fast as she could to Evanston hospital. I never new my mom could drive so fast and well; it was a pretty thrilling experience.
At the emergency room I received about 30 stitches to close a deep gash two inches below my right knee and after few days in bed and a few weeks on crutches I was all healed up; but to this day I still cannot feel a portion of my lower right calf because of that accident.
This was the beginning of what my dad would call the worry years (not the wonder years). In the following years of my life my guardian angel has had to call on a cadre of angels to keep me from doing myself major or fatal harm:
- There was the 10-pound speaker that fell from a wall, nailed me squarely on the top of my head, briefly knocked me out and caused me to have a few stitches. I still carry the dent of it on the top of my head and occasionally cut it when shaving.
- There was the heatstroke that nearly killed me because I was playing with my friends on the beach in the hot, hot sun way too long without hydrating; but a life guard noticed my shallow breathing and got me medical help just in the nick of time.
- There was the time I attempted to ride down a really steep hill on my first skateboard and quickly discovered the finer points about the laws of gravity and inertia and went crashing into the pavement; but heavily scarred and bruised, I slowly got up and walked away.
- There was the large German Sheppard that attacked me, bit my face just beneath my right eye, punctured my nose and tore flesh on both hands; but I still look pretty.
- There was the time, in high school, when I was pushing a heavy piece of basketball equipment way too fast and it fell on me; had it not been for Cactus Bill who was there to help pull it off of me, I would have surely suffocated to death.
- There was the time of my senior year in college, when so exhausted and dazed after completing one of my computer science finals, I mistakenly stepped off a curb into on-coming traffic; had it not been for David Grey who grabbed my right arm and yanked me be back to safety, I would have been a tragic story on that day’s evening news.
- There was my 30th birthday when on my bicycle I swerved to miss a car that did not see me crossing its path; it was moving around 35 miles per hour and I was moving around 25; we missed each other by inches, but I could not avoid the three large, thick wooden polls on the side of the road. I hit the first poll so hard that it yanked my feet right out of my clipped-in peddles, flipped me upside down and threw me in to the second poll. I laid flat on my back for 15 minutes waiting and trying to fully catch my breath while a group of strangers surrounded and took care of me until an ambulance showed up. My bicycle received a minor dent on the upper bar of the frame but not enough to weaken the frame. Believe it or not, after the paramedics gave me a brief checkup right there on the scene, I got back on my bike and continued riding.
- Oh yeah, there was the time that dad and I almost literally blew ourselves up trying to light the gas furnace in the basement of our house in Skokie Illinois. Now that’s a great story that I shall describe in detail some other time.
I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.
I want to thank everyone that wished me a happy birthday. And a special thanks to the crew at Landrey’s Bicycle, in Quincy Massachusetts (one of my favorite places to hangout) for throwing me a surprise birthday party while I was there getting my bike tuned up.
On Father’s Day, one of my adoptive fathers, Jim Tilmon, said to me, “You may never fully appreciate each and every breath of life you take until you reach your very last breath; so live your life to the fullest.”
My other adoptive father, Don High, said to me, “To hell with anyone that get’s in the way of you achieving your goals and making all of your dreams come true. Man up and live your life to the fullest.”
On my birthday, Burlenda Hurbert, the beautiful woman who literally taught me how not just to sing but to own every note, of every word, of every song I sing, wrote to me, “You are so incredibly gifted and accomplished. This is the time of your life where the fruits of the Spirit are truly maximized and realized. Watch God bless you exponentially.”
I am blessed to have so many angels in my life that watch over me and remind me everyday what a gift life is and to cherish every second of it.
I know that by the way I ride my bike and just by the way I push my envelope for life I may not get to see my 75th birthday; but that’s not what matters and that’s not my goal. My goal is to live every life experience to it’s fullest and when I’ve breathed my very last breath I’m moving on to the next great thing beyond physical life experience.
But for today, tomorrow and the days that follow, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on that sparrow, but I know he watches me.”
Hycel B. Taylor III