Sunday, February 3, 2019

Walking Papers? Walking SHOES!

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
My father walks every day--EVERY day--rain or shine.
     Maybe it's a habit he picked up when he was in the military. Maybe it's a habit he picked up as his body started showing the wear and tear of aging. Maybe he just wanted to be ready whenever the opportunity to be romantic with my mom in their later years presented itself.
     Personally, I think my father walks because he believes that as long as he's walking he'll never die. The only problem is his mind is willing, but his body is letting him down. Starting with his feet.
     "I need a new pair of walking shoes," he tells me, as he walks into the kitchen where I'm at. I'm reading the newspaper at the table, and he's carrying with him a well-worn pair of New Balance that he has never complained about before. "These hurt my feet."
     "What's wrong with them?" I ask.
     He looks at me as if I'm stupid.
     "I told you, they hurt my feet."
     "Yeah, but HOW do they hurt your feet? Are they too tight? Rubbing against your heel? Giving you blisters?"
    "They just hurt."
    Having made his complaint known, he then puts them on, and goes on his walk. My wife walks into the kitchen about then.
    "Want some coffee?" she says.
    "Of course, sweetie," I tell her. "I would have made some myself, but nobody makes coffee like you."
    "You just say that,” she tells me, “because you're too lazy to make your own.”
    She thinks I'm kidding when I compliment her, but it's true. She does make excellent coffee. I don't know how she does it. I can used the exact same ingredients, the exact same equipment, and make it the exact same way, but her coffee will always turn out better than mine, so, even though the first thing I want when I wake up is a cup of coffee, I'll wait for my wife to make it for me.
    Armed with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I go out to the front patio to finish reading my newspaper. After awhile, my father returns. He looks tired. He was gone less than a half-hour, but he still looks pretty beat. I look at him walking toward me. There was a time when he could work all day and dance all night, but that time has come and gone.
    Myself, I like to hike. I can go off into the mountains and hike for hours. Sometimes I'll take my dog, but most times I'll just hike by myself. The time will come for me, too, I suppose, when a walk up and down the street will be more effort than it's worth.
    My father sits down beside me.
    "I need a new pair of walking shoes," he tells me again. I'm sure he's been thinking about this his whole walk. "These hurt my feet."
    I don't say anything. I don't want to travel the same trail I hiked down earlier.
    "After I walk three miles, my feet hurt," he explains. "They’ve never hurt before."
    I want to stay out of it... but I can't.
    "Are you sure it's the shoes that make your feet hurt?" I ask him.
    My father makes a disgusted, snorting sound.
    "Of course it's the shoes," he says, and snorts again. "My feet have never hurt before."
    I must admit, he has a point, but, then again, he's not the young pup he used to be, either. Even at my age, after a good night's sleep, the first thing I want to do is take a nap.
    "If you want, pop, I'll take you to the store and you can buy a new pair of shoes."
    "Don't trouble yourself, son. I'll go with your wife the next time she goes to Costco."
    I smile to myself at this. I know the reason he would rather go with my wife. If he goes with me, he'd have to pay for them himself. If he goes with my wife, he'll just put the shoes in her cart, and SHE’LL pay for it.
    I don't mind buying things for my father. What I mind is he doesn't even pretend to take out his wallet, and we usually end up with things we don't need, like 48 corn dogs or 120 miniature cream puffs. I tell my wife constantly, "I don't mind spending money. What I mind is WASTING money." My father, on the other hand, doesn't mind wasting money, as long as the money being wasted isn't his.
    Another thing that bothers me is he refuses to say "please" or "thank you." You know who taught me that particular quirk? My father. Growing up I would always have to say "please" or "thank you," and, once grown, I understood the importance of those words. My father, on the other hand, has grown older backwards. "Please" and "thank you" no longer have any importance to him.
    My wife comes outside to bring him a cup of coffee and then goes back inside.
    "Whew!" my father says, letting out a big rush of air. "I'm beat. That was some walk, let me tell you."
    "Where'd you go?"
    My father had to think about it a bit. And then he thought about it some more.
    "Oh, I just went to the end of the block and back."
    "To the end of the block and back?"
    "Yeah, the end of the block and back. Can't you hear?"
    I ignore that. My Dad's tired. I'm sure he's got various aches and pains to contend with. As do I.
    Especially once my father wakes up.
Walk on over to,, or @JimDuchene.
Your stomach will ache… from laughter.