This morning on my walk back up the hill, with my faithful dog at my heels, I am suddenly reminded of my father. He ran long-distance, so several times a week he would set out for a few miles by himself. He had such a distinctive gait that, if I ever saw it again, I would be knocked into stillness at the recognition. A stride I don’t see reflected in my brother or I, my father’s two children, but it’s such an indelible memory it is a part of me nevertheless.
My dad would lift his hand in acknowledgment when a car passed, or perhaps another runner headed the other way. I don’t know how many times I saw this hand motion – hundreds. Thousands? Sometimes I was the driver, or passenger – it’s a small town so I saw my father running many times. Such a familiar sight to me too, this movement on his part, this acknowledgment. He would be deep in his meditative space – that’s what running was for him – and he’d lift his hand, that’s all. But I can see it, and see the cast of his head on the path, and his mind was elsewhere. But even now if I close my eyes and try to remember much more than the flow of the gesture, or the feeling it instills within to remember it – it vanishes.
The dog and I arrive home and two of our cats ask to be let in; a third sits placidly on our kitchen table and calmly moves off when he sees me. (Naughty!). The dog has a quick drink of water and pads over expectantly for my praise, and a scritch between the eyes. I settle his blanket over his bed and somewhere in all this I realize that to support our family – our too-young college student, our spirited son, our dog, our five cats – is quite an accomplishment. It is a labor of love and nothing else. I hadn’t quite seen it that way, seen what a good job we do. Not for any other reason in that there’s always that next step. Today, for instance, we will be replacing the light above the sink. I have bills to pay by phone, on my work break. Two packages to mail out, and a final late Christmas present to wrap. We get to plan the evening meal – a little trickier as Ralph and I have both been ill and unable to eat for the last thirty-six hours.
The dog now sleeps on his bed – he is chasing and barking at something in his sleep. All the funnier as he does not bark when awake. I suppose a big part of our life, Ralph and I, is delivering safe dreams to more than few sentient creatures.