We’re out for a walk. Left foot, right foot. Repeat as necessary.
We’re hanging out for the week while June is at a conference. It’s a good visit, that sort of stay with no agenda, no expectations. Beer and M&Ms and dogs of all sizes.
We should go on an another adventure sometime, he says. What about Big Bend, I suggest. He asks where it is. I tell him it’s a national park on the Mexico border. He says he’s never been. I want to tell him, yes, we’ve been there a million times. You showed it to me. We’ve been to the top, and to the bottom. It’s our favorite place. But I don’t. Sounds like I’d like it, he says. Yeah, I know you would, I agree.
The silences are growing longer. He forgets words, has a hard time expressing his thoughts. We’re brothers, so it’s no big deal. We just shrug and go on to the next subject. But his bottomless pit of stories is vanishing. The pun derbies aren’t there anymore.
Eating breakfast at Bobo’s we get mismatched coffee mugs. He points out that while his is quite manly, mine would be great (pause) if I were a girl. There he is! And then he’s gone again.
As he becomes more unsure these days, I worry about what we can do to stay in his comfort zone. We can’t do a lot.
But we can walk. We love to walk.
When you walk, you don’t need words. We fall into our familiar stride, Smith Boy legs perfectly in synch. The silence is comfortable, the sound of the breeze in the trees and footsteps on the trail.
We threw bluebonnet seeds along a stretch of the trail a couple days ago. Hopefully it will be our little legacy, a half mile to remember in coming years. He was always the world’s biggest bluebonnet fan. Maybe they’ll outlive us both.
It’s a hot day. I remember that I forgot sunscreen. And water. And how great it is to spend an afternoon with someone whose friendship you cherish.
We come across a plaque next to the spot where we planted the bluebonnets. It’s something about the artists who created the sculpture nearby. “We should make a ‘Rick and Gary’s Bluebonnet Field’ plaque and stick it on top of this,” he says. Still an anarchist. I love it. And he remembered my name, a quiet joy these days.
We get a coke at the Sonic and drink it at the park next to the mosaic pickup. I ask where the water from the river comes from, and he has no idea, even though he was always an authority. But then he sees a TV reporter shooting remote a couple hundred yards away and tells me his name. Used to be a reporter at the paper. Nice guy. How is this the thing he still remembers? WHY NOT FORGET THIS GUY AND REMEMBER BIG BEND??? I hate Alzheimer’s.
But what can you do?
You can walk.
We go out again in the evening, on his neighborhood out and back course. He tells me about houses, the people who live in them, the history of the neighborhood. We debate whether the pit bull on the other side of the fence can jump high enough to clear it on the way back. He says we should do something with his brothers. Have I met them? I smile while my heart breaks.
Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience, Emerson said. He’s wrong. I have no time for patience. This is the guy who gave me Thoreau’s “Walden” as a pup because he knew I needed it. Who’s going to look out for me now?
There’s nothing I can do. Embrace the silence, pack away the memories of the moments. Enjoy every sandwich.
So that’s what we do. A quiet time with a friend. Miles in the bank. Start the taper. left foot, right foot. Repeat as necessary …