I haven't seen much of my good friend Jen the past several months. Our weekly play dates watching our kids play and fight as we talked and drank wine were replaced by quick hellos and goodbyes as she dropped Lil off with me, then fetched her at the end of the day.
Jen's days were being spent at her father's bedside. He'd been diagnosed in March and had surgery in May. He hadn't been left with enough liver to leave the hospital.
This time last year, on any given morning, you'd find the two of them pounding the pavement together. Walking for miles and miles, hours and hours. Her mother would make fun of the pair;
"Don't you have anything better to do than walk?"
They didn't. It was their sanity, their bond, their peace.
He passed a few weeks ago. Jen and her Mother and Sister sat in bed with him and held on tight; he waved to Jen and took off.
The services and final farewells are behind her. The flowers and cards have slowed to a trickle. She's getting on with the getting on.
She asked me if I wanted to join her for a walk yesterday after we dropped the girls off at school.
I'm a lazy fat ass, but I have new sneakers, so I agreed. I know she hasn't been walking since her Dad got sick.
She told me we could do the route that she and her Dad had done so many times.
I didn't ask her what the route was as she parked her car downtown. A few minutes of stomping at a pretty good clip, she told me where we were headed. It was miles away. Miles farther than I'd ever consider walking.
I can't walk that far.
I didn't say a word. Speaking being hard when one is desperately out of shape and walking at a near jogging pace.
She talked about her Dad. And talked and talked. I waited for her tears. They didn't come.
I can't do this. My lungs are going to explode.
She kept talking. About his funeral. Her daughter had asked who was going to buy her casket when she died.
My legs. I can't feel them. But they hurt. How is that?
The casket was closed. She didn't need to see him. She knew what he looked like in the sweat suit he'd be buried in.
Half way. Thank goodness. Time to turn around.
She didn't turn us around back the same way we had come. She took us down some old railroad tracks. Then down a walking trail along the water that I didn't know existed. We passed several people that she'd nod and wave to, only knowing their faces from the dozens of times she'd walked past them before.
Oh, hello hip I see you've joined the aching ranks. Back and knees have been screaming for at least a mile. And ankle, you've made yourself known also, happy to have you. Is there any part of me that does not hurt? Raise your hand please. Get back down hand, you are throbbing.
Jen would check on me, ask how I was doing.
"Fine. Just fine."
Big fat liar.
We made it back to her car on shaking wobbly legs.
"Wasn't that awesome? Don't you feel great?"
Big. Fat. Liar.
She was impressed with how good her feet felt in her brand new sneakers. The laces of her old ones had been tied with those of her Dad's.
He has them with him.
We picked up the girls and spent the afternoon play date style.
And as the wine flowed, her tears finally did the same. Mostly happy remembering tears. Of course I joined her. We hugged and 'I love you'd' and made plans for more walking this week.
This morning, every muscle in my body recalled yesterday's miles, not fondly either. I moaned and creaked and stretched.
And threw on my sneakers and went for a walk.