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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Long Shadows and Happy Feet

Sunday I went for a walk late in the afternoon when the shadows were long and the breeze was light. I didn’t have the expectations my walk usually brings. I just needed an escape and some fresh air. Saturday had been a particularly difficult day. My Aunt had spent the night at Mom’s, allowing me the opportunity to spend the night in my own bed. When I came into the house Saturday morning, she whispered to me that Momma wasn’t doing well, she wasn’t talking. I walked into Mom’s room and lay down by her. She gave me her million watt smile but didn’t try to talk. We lay facing each other for several minutes before she croaked out…. “I…. Love…. You….” I tried hard to keep smiling, but found tears broke through the dam instead. When she saw me crying, she frowned and stared beyond me to a place those who have their feet firmly planted in this world cannot see. I wondered aloud what she saw, but got no answer. As strong as I’ve tried to be, in that moment I was scared she would take her last breath before my kids got there or my brother arrived. I sat with her until they arrived and watched her eyes light up as each one walked into the room. She smiled and managed short greetings, but mainly she just stared. During the afternoon we had episodes that have become the norm for Dad and me. It was difficult for them to witness and I could see the helplessness on their faces as she struggled and as Dad and I worked to take care of her.  Saturday was a beautiful day and I sat on the porch as each one took time to say what might be their final goodbyes.  When the last guest left, I felt completely depleted and anxious about what Sunday would bring. Perhaps by divine design, Sunday was quiet, so I took the opportunity to slip away for a brief walk as she napped. As I got out of the car I was greeted by Soxy the wonder dog. She smiled at me (yes, dogs do smile) as I hit the trail. My heart wasn’t in rhythm with my feet, so my feet slowed to the rhythm of my heart. The walk was more of a meandering through the woods than a walk. I didn’t actually want to be there, I didn’t want to be anywhere, I wanted a deep hole I could bury myself in, until the world passed me by and life returned to normal. When I got to the end of the trail on my first lap, Soxy waited at the end. It has become her habit to let me make the first lap by myself, then she joins me on the others. The minute she pounced onto the trail, I smiled. There are several reasons I love having Soxy walk with me.  The main reason is because for a long time she wouldn’t walk with me. She would walk with the guys, she would walk if one of the guys walked with me and once she walked when a girlfriend walked with me, but she wouldn’t walk with me alone. It wasn’t until the bitter cold set in and I still wanted to walk, when she decided it was me or no one.  I’m okay at being the last one picked, in fact I’m quite used to it. I didn’t know for sure if she was going to join me until I felt the cold tip of her wet nose as my arms swung back with my gait. Soxy has a system to her walks. During the first part of the trail she walks at my heel, or rather on my heel. Once we reach a certain part of the trail, things become fun. She bounces and prances ahead of me then turns and waits until I catch up. She’ll look over her shoulder as if she is telling me to hurry up; she wants to check something out. Sunday she waited a lot. I love watching her explore different trails and watching her ears as she cocks her head to listen when she hears something rustling in the distance. But mainly I love to watch her prance and bounce and yes, sometimes skip. When Soxy runs ahead, regardless of how long the shadows of my day have been, Soxy and her happy feet make me smile.  In a flicker of time all of the burdens seem a little less heavy and the clouds a little less dark when Soxy says… “Let’s Go!”

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