Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Walk

Watched a late twenties to mid-thirties woman huffing and puffing down the side of the road in her new skimpy "walking" outfit.  Unusual for me, I didn't focus on the looks of this shapely, blond, blue-eyed beauty with a long ponytail and cute little freckles behind her left ear - not to mention her tanned body, earrings and tattoo on her exposed midriff.  Nah, I didn't notice her tight butt, smoothly muscled legs and overly endowed top.  Instead I thought about walking.  I really must be getting old, but since I didn't concentrate on this lovely creature, it proved I'm not a dirty old man and that made me feel better.

Because I'm glued to a wheelchair, to me walking is a lost art, but to others it can be many things such as exercise, a sport, a romantic interlude, transportation, hours of reflection down memory lane or sharing some time with the Almighty.  My most memorable recollections of walks began in 1945 when I was three.

My sister Donna and I were playing in front of our home when our dad, returning from the "big" war, turned the corner and began his stroll up our street.  He looked so awesome in his navy blues and carrying a huge sea bag.  It seemed like time elongated into slow motion as I breathlessly waited for the warm touch of his arms around me.  At that age I didn't remember him, but I knew he was my daddy and what he represented.  A great walk.

My paternal grandparents came from Italy and valiantly tried "Americanizing" their children and grandchildren, but still continued some Old World traditions.  Among those customs was the wife walking three steps behind her husband and grandma did until her death.  I always thought this weird and most women  deemed it absolutely repulsive, but maybe it wasn't so "wrong" after all.  It was grandma's way of honoring her husband and he definitely was a man to be honored.  For ninety-two years he cherished his wife and eleven children and provided them, not just the basics, but taught them by example, how to be good American citizens and lead good lives.  Another great walk.

We had a gym teacher and coach who taught us kids how to play sports and practice good lives.  One day while in the seventh grade, he made our boys gym class walk about a mile and back teaching us proper posture like standing straight and keeping our heads up.  During this little jaunt, he somehow managed to equate proper walking posture with doing good things in life.  Joe Sorge taught us a lot of "just do the right thing."  A walk worth remembering.

My dad walked to work every day.  Because he came home for lunch to check on my ailing mother, he'd walk to and from work twice a day.  I believe those healthy walks extended his life and in a way, my mom's too.  A heartfelt walk.

My two older sisters, in an attempt to teach me proper manners, explained I should always walk on the outside toward the road when escorting a female.  Other niceties toward women they hammered into my head were opening doors, pulling out chairs and standing when they approached or left the table. Maybe the best lesson of all was teaching me how to dance.  This "tutoring" helped me to better appreciate the female sex and hopefully vice versa.  All these sessions aided me to take the most important walk of all - down the marital aisle. That's a walk you'll never forget.

Attempting to avoid the inevitable, I once decided walking would lengthen the time before muscular dystrophy stole my legs.  I had already been forced to stop working and spare time became my partner.  Just simply walking wasn't enough; oh, no, I had to make it a test.  I began walking a mile a day, then two, and next three.  Then I  got competitive...with who?  (This proves one shouldn't spend too much time alone.)  I set out to walk a pace of five miles an hour.  Because my legs were not one hundred per cent, I had to build up to this self-imposed task.  Finding a par course to walk was easy, but the goal became a hardship.  However, being stubborn as the proverbial mule, I continued my daily trek like a mail carrier not letting rain, sleet or snow deter me.  I initially walked slowly and swallowed my masculine pride as young girls whizzed by me like I was in reverse mode.  But when feeble old ladies, some with canes, started yelling at me to move over so they could pass, I got serious.

After weeks of grueling laps and unpleasant indignities, I bought a stop-watch and plotted my course of action.  Spurred on by a rising sense of self-worth...and maybe a little bit of payback, I intensified my efforts.  Slowly my speed picked up.  My first major triumph came the day I passed someone on the track.  Albeit, she was probably ninety and navigated the cinder path with a walker, but I sped home to tell my wife of my feat.  Unfortunately, she didn't share my enthusiasm, but undaunted, I doubled my efforts.

Months flew by as my pace around the course steadily increased.  I purchased expensive walking shorts and tops, the best walking shoes, super repellent rain gear, even a more precise stop-watch.  Money was no object; another matter my wife didn't share enthusiastically.  It worked.  I began passing people who once scowled at me.  Jauntily asking old ladies to move over became common fodder.  Then I started passing old men, middle-aged people, dogs.

But there was one girl in her mid twenties who reigned supreme on the par course.  She walked like the wind.  Her Mercury feet whisked her around the path with hurricane-like force.  When she lapped me, her draft shook my garments and sometimes her ponytail whipped at my eyes.  I became all too familiar with her backside and vowed one day I would walk past her and maybe even give her a little nudge to the side.

Regardless of the weather, I walked every day.  I became obsessed.  My wife began worrying about my sanity and thought my next walk should be to the psychologist.  Day after day I practiced, begging my stop-watch to show me a faster time.  When I saw the Wizard of Walk pull up to the course in her Mercedes-Benz, I redoubled my pledge to outwalk her.  Well, sadly to say,  I never did best the Wizard, but my efforts to try did bring me to reaching my goal of walking five miles an hour.  I guess that's what competition is all about.  An amazing walk.

There are many famous walks like the Bataan death march, the Trail of Tears of the Cherokee, the historical one on the moon or M. L.King's march in Washington, not to mention walking the plank.  But my favorite walks were holding each of my daughter's hands meandering down to the pond or anywhere else, talking about our blessings and the beauty of nature.  Now that's a truly wonderful walk.

Alas, let us not forget the peaceful walk in the park only spoiled by trying to hit a little white sphere into a tiny hole in the grass.  Nonsense, pure nonsense.  A walk of utter frustration.

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