DEAR ABBY: I had to write after reading the letter from "Worried Mom," who opposed her son buying a motorcycle. You agreed with the father, who thought "Ray" old and responsible enough to make his own decisions.
On May 30, I buried my son, Tommy. He was only 28, but he spent the last eight years of life in a bed or wheelchair -- unable to talk, walk, eat, etc. He wore diapers instead of jeans. A trachea tube protruded from his throat and a feeding tube dangled from his abdomen. The brain injury my precious son incurred when his motorcycle collided with a van left him in a persistent vegetative state.
His friends and family abandoned him; his father and I grew old and exhausted from the daily struggle to preserve his life and protect his dignity. It was a nightmare of suffering and horror -- a walk through hell. Now Tommy is gone; we continue to struggle with pain and loss that will last a lifetime.
Being "mature and responsible" is no protection in the event of an accident. Cyclists are far more vulnerable and at risk of death and injury than occupants of an enclosed vehicle.
Tell "Worried Mom" to trust her feelings and stick to her guns. Her worries are valid. As long as her son lives under her roof, she has every right to veto his choice. I'll spend the rest of my life regretting that I didn't say "no" to my son. (You may print my name.) -- LAURA BURBACK, ST. PAUL, MINN.
DEAR LAURA: I offer my deepest sympathy for the tragedy that befell your son. The responses to that letter have been 90 percent in agreement with your opinion on this issue. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I strongly disagree with your advice to "Ray's" parents to let him get a motorcycle. When my son was 16, he wanted a motorcycle. I was hesitant and mentioned my fears to a doctor at UCLA. He said: "Just send your son to me. I'll take him through the wards and show him all of the boys there with broken backs, broken necks, broken everything. Most of them will never walk again. A motorcycle has no bumpers; it's just out there waiting to be demolished."
My son didn't get a motorcycle and is now in his 40s with his bones and all his faculties intact. -- POLLY FLEMING, LOS ANGELES
DEAR POLLY: At this point, I regret having endorsed the young man's decision. However, the man in the original letter was 22, not 16. In fairness to the "opposition" -- read on:
DEAR ABBY: I was impressed with your advice to the mother of the 22-year-old who wanted a motorcycle. I was also pleased to read your closing line, " ... pray that your son will be one of the thousands of motorcyclists who ride safely." Bravo for you, Abby! While motorcycling can pose greater risks than driving a car, for example, thousands DO ride safely every day. Your reader's son took the first step by enrolling in a motorcycle safety course. By learning to identify your risks, you can also learn to avoid them.
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), motorcycling's largest organization and lobbying group, strongly recommends and supports safety training for enthusiasts of all abilities. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) provides or sanctions training classes in all 50 states; the (unofficial) motto is "minimize the risk/maximize the fun."
For information on the AMA or locating MSF courses, readers may call 1-800-262-5646. Thank you again for dispensing such thoughtful and open-minded advice. -- ERIK NOTTLESON, AMA LIFE MEMBER, JAMAICA PLAIN, MASS.
DEAR ERIK: I'm printing your letter so that all who are determined to engage in this risky pastime can, at least, prepare themselves as well as possible to avoid injury.