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I have written about “our park” before. It is close to our home and the river; it has a small lake, an ever-flowing stream, some wooded areas with dirt trails and some open areas with paved trails - something for everyone. It even has a playground and a huge field for flying toy airplanes, kicking the ball or playing dog frisbee.

When we first moved to this area, there weren’t many who used this park; consequently, it became “our” park. Or, that is certainly how our dog sees it - she has never come to terms with the fact that there might be another dog coming around the bend at any moment. Even though she is small, it makes no difference to her - she lets her opinions be known quite loudly. Most of these other pups just pay her no mind and move on as she jumps around in hysterics. I think if these other dogs are able to roll their eyes, they are probably doing a lot of that.

I don’t walk nearly as much as I should, but I really love it. It brings me a sense of peace and helps me get my thoughts and worries in order when I talk with God. My husband and I usually walk separately - since the pandemic, having some alone time results in a happier, healthier marriage.

I guess my love for walking began in my preteen years. Growing up in a relatively small town, it was easy to walk everywhere. My girlfriends and I were thrilled with the realization that we could walk past the houses of the boys we had crushes on in school and those in our favorite local band. Yeah, I realize now that this is basically like stalking - but we meant no harm and we were very discreet as we passed by (no binoculars or anything like that). Well, as discreet as giggly, preteen girls can be. We also walked to the local shopping center - there were no malls in our town at that time. That freedom was glorious. Even though (I think) we asked permission from our moms or dads, it was just nice to not have to ask to be driven everywhere. Our dads weren’t very understanding of wanting to look in the yards of our prospective “boyfriends” at that time, anyway.

A quick flashback to protective dads - mine, in particular. My friends and I often spent Saturday afternoons at the school grounds close to home. Our favorite band of high school boys was practicing in the cafeteria/auditorium, so we sat (discreetly) on the sidewalk by the parking lot so we could listen to the music. We couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us and all was well and good. Until I spotted my father’s car (he becomes father instead of dad in this scenario) going very slowly past the school, more than once. I thought that was a bit odd, but didn’t think much more of it, and we decided to go back home shortly after that anyway. Well, I think that was the angriest I had ever seen my father, and it was all directed at me. Not physically, but just red-in-the-face, finger-pointing mad. And mother wasn’t able to interject much in our defense. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to offer anything to convince him we were doing nothing wrong. Now that I’m older, I get it...sort of. I mean, I was so naive and innocent, I couldn’t even figure out why he was upset. But, from his point of view, we were putting ourselves in an unsafe situation and were pretty vulnerable. Quite frankly, if one of those guys had even poked their head out and spoken to us, we probably would’ve run off, giggling and blushing, to hide somewhere.

Well, back to walking...when our children were small, I used to love walking in our sweet neighborhood; and many times while they were in school, I would walk at the track of a local gym figuring out how many times around equaled a mile and how many of those I could get in before school was dismissed. I made a lot of friends during those walks, and strengthened some friendships already in place. I read somewhere that when you walk with someone it is easier and more comfortable to talk about things, even intimate things, because you’re next to them rather than face-to-face. I did notice that my husband tended to open up and share more when we were on evening walks in the neighborhood.

A significant walking experience that I will always carry with me is the time my daughter asked if I might be interested in participating in the 2-day, 30-mile walk for breast cancer research in the fall of the year I would be reaching one of those “big” birthdays. Of course, let’s do it! That’s what I said, and that’s truly what I meant - at the time. I trained for months, walking miles and miles.

That October broke records for the warmest temperatures. I don’t do well in the heat and bright sun. And there are a LOT more hills in and around the city than I had ever imagined, and I don’t do too well on hills either. I had done a lot of mall and indoor track walking as part of my training during the hot, summer months. So, admittedly, I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been.

My daughter was young, strong, and fit. She hadn’t trained much more than I had, but she spent a lot of time in a marching band, dressed in a heavy uniform out in the heat, and all of her classes were at the top of huge hills. To repeat, I was not ready.

As we approached some of the hills through town with swollen feet and the sun beating down on our backs, I began to question my decisions; not just about doing the 2-day walk, but about everything. As my enthusiastic daughter laughed and sang and pointed out beautiful homes and historical landmarks, all I could think about was surviving each mile - one at a time. How can she possibly be this joyful when her mother is clearly about to leave this earth?

The beautiful vision she and I had dreamed of - spending hours together outdoors in the crisp, autumn air; talking about literally everything, laughing uncontrollably and being silly, didn’t quite come to pass. We did the 2-day walk, completed our goal, and it felt glorious, even though we weren’t that friendly with each other by the time we reached the finish line.

I wished it could have been different - the next year’s walk happened during 50-60 degree, breezy weather. And having learned my lesson, I would’ve done a much better job of training before ever attempting it again. But, the important thing is that we accomplished what we set out to do - something together - something that went beyond ourselves toward a much bigger goal, in honor and in memory of so many of our friends and family members who had suffered through breast cancer.

While the 30-mile, 2-day was definitely no “walk in the park,” as with many things, the painful memories of that event have passed and the sweet ones remain. The bond between us from that shared experience will forever be a part of us, and I’m so grateful for saying, sure, let’s do it!

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