Author’s note: This is a piece I wrote five years ago. I made several weak attempts at getting it published—all unsuccessful. Now, I’ve decided to post it in short chapters on my blog. All names have been changed and some details. Since I wrote this, my beloved dog, Baxter, has died, I’ve gained weight, again, and have three novels published and two more in the works. Like the river, life goes on and is usually wonderful! Enjoy and feel free to give me feedback. Bill Mathis
The River Path – Chapter 2
Each day on the path, I recognize the same people walking, running or biking, by the time of morning it is. At 7:00 a.m. Anne, a neighbor, walks Bart, her aging Airedale terrier. They take a short walk due to his declining health, usually after Anne has exercised at a fitness center. Lately, she’s been skipping the fitness center and taking two walks. A short one with Bart and a longer one with her son’s dog she is temporarily caring for. Hank is an Australian shepherd and needs lots of exercise. So Anne jogs, while Hank runs and fetches the rope toy she repeatedly throws him. We frequently talk outside our building or on the path.
I think about our conversations. About our adult children. Her sons, my daughters. About the river of our lives through divorce, adult kids who haven’t quite found themselves, or who are living on student loans, about relationships with ex-spouses and their families, about new relationships, a son getting married, a new grandchild on the way, about the events in our wonderful town and neighborhood. Not necessarily deep talks, but far enough below the surface to know there have been rocks in each of our rivers.
I see Jerald nearly every morning, feet splayed, shoulders swaying from side to side with each slow step, pausing often to catch his breath. He is retired and lives in the apartments near the park. He lives alone. His bright smile and deep, hearty hello mask the pain over last year’s death of his wife, his physical pain of bad ankles. His loneliness. His need to be out on the path every day, regardless of the weather—always with a smile on his face.
I think about what I will be like as I continue to age. About the what-if’s of poor health, of my partner, dying before me or me before him, of when I no longer can drive. Of aloneness. I wonder about dying gracefully – is that really possible? I think about leaving life together with my partner, about how when we met we were hoping for someone to fade off into the sunset with. Still, at age sixty-five, I don’t worry. Yet.
Stay tuned for Chapter 3 next week & feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org