First of all, let me just say that Wendy went out and found herself a husband that was very much like our dad...many of his good qualities, and a few of the bad. Joe won't mind me saying that, because he love love loved my dad. He is generous to a fault, faithful, thrifty, brave, reverent... clean... oh wait. That is the boy scouts. Joe also came equipped with a bit of a temper. That has mellowed over the years that I have known him, but make no mistake: it is still in there... just in case he needs it.
As he did, one morning a few weeks ago. Last year his son's Specialized bike was stolen... right out of their garage. As the months went by, they knew they would never see the bike again. But one day... the most incredible thing happened. He was driving his 14-year-old daughter and her friend to school, looked out his window, and there it was! A boy riding that Specialized Hard Rock... right there in plain sight. Joe called the boy a bad name under his breath where no one could hear it, and then rolled down the window. "Hey! Where did you get that bike?" The boy stopped, looked at Joe for a moment, and then bold as brass: "I got it from you." And then he continued to ride along toward the school. Clearly the boy had no idea who he was messing with. (pardon the grammar)
Joe's blood began to boil. He drove alongside the boy all the way to the junior high school, calling out to him the whole way. "Hey, get off my bike." Getting angrier by the minute. "You better give me back that bike..." But the boy didn't even look his way. He just rode all the way to school, and went straight for the bike rack. Joe pulled in and got out of his car. "Are you going to give me back my bike?" The boy didn't even answer. He just parked the bike, and stepped back. Joe looked him squarely in the eye, and then marched over, hoisted the bike up and stowed it in his car. The boy stood, wide-eyed, for another moment, and then took off into the school.
Triumphant, Joe got back in the car and took off. "Can you believe the nerve of that kid?" he asked his daughter and her friend. "No," his daughter replied. Usually he is such a nice guy. "Wait. You know him?" Joe asked. "Well, yeah... don't you remember? He is from church. His mom got a divorce...?"
And then the light began to dawn. That wasn't his son's bike that was stolen. That was the bike that he fixed up and gave to the lady at church who had gotten divorced... for her 12-year-old son who didn't have a bike to ride to school. When Joe asked the boy where he got the bike, and he answered, "I got it from you," he was not being flippant... just entirely truthful. Yes. At this point in the story, let us pause. A minute of silence for what may be the Biggest Jerk Moment of All Time. Are you feeling it? Okay, let us continue.
Horrified, Joe had to call the boy's mother and explain his mistake. I would like to say there was a happy ending. Remember in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," the Grinch told Cindy Lou Who that he had to take the Christmas tree back to his workshop to fix it... because there was a light on one side that didn't light quite right? So maybe Joe tried that tack... "I was just picking it up to give it a tune-up for you, little fellow..." Yeah, that's the ticket... a tune-up.
So of course Joe returned the bike. He probably did tune it up. Here is how that day went for the boy: Poor kid went to his first class, still holding it all together. Someone asked him how he was... and the dam broke. He burst into tears, choking out the words, "Some big dude just jacked my bike!"
Yup. The big dude bike-jacker killer-of-young-boys'-dreams... that is my brother-in-law. I love that guy. And I'm feeling his pain. Because at one point or another we all make the mistake that makes us feel like a complete heel. And I have to admit, as Joe told me about it, we laughed until we cried. Because what else can you do? Just cry?