Walking and Love

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Greek Proverb  

It’s been just over six weeks since my father came to stay with us. As you can imagine, each day brings new challenges, but thankfully (fingers crossed) I’m keeping my head above water. Most days.

My one complaint: I hadn’t been out for a walk in weeks because I was afraid to leave my dad on his own. I had one horrible thought after another imagining he’d end up walking out of the house into the forest or up the side of the mountain and never be seen again. He talks about either having to go to school or work every single day, worries he’s going to be late and will get in trouble, so my concerns were not simply a product of my wild imagination.

A few weeks ago, I got the idea of renting a wheelchair for him. I wasn’t sure how he’d deal with the wheelchair. When I had suggested a cane in the past, he’d said, “I’m not old enough for a cane.” He was 88.

But forever hopeful (and some say naive) I went ahead and rented the chair and told my dad we were going for a walk. When he first saw it, he asked me what it was. I explained this would help us get out more often for walks, where we could get some fresh air and enjoy the mountains and scenery. “And we’ll be together.”

He sat in the chair without protest. The man never ceases to surprise me. So off we went. There are many great paved walking trails in Whistler and most now are clear of snow. But few are flat. My arms and legs ached pushing him up hill and my stomach hollowed in terror as I gripped the chair’s handles, afraid to lose control on the downhill stretches.

“I can get out and walk,” my dad said when he saw the brow of a hill.

“Do you want to walk?” I asked.

“Not really, but you must be tired. It’s too hard to push me all this way.”

Yup it is, I wanted to say, but instead said, “It’s okay, Dad. We’re out here together. I’m fine.”

“Yes, it’s good.”

Not once has he complained about the chair. Instead he worried about me. “You must be tired,” he repeated again and again during our one-hour walks. “Do you want to sit down and I’ll push you?” When he wasn’t asking me this, he was suggesting we find a coffee shop where he could buy me something to eat, because “you must be starving after all that work pushing me around.”

Much has changed about my father, but his unconditional love for his children and his capacity to think of others before himself never has.

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