When the neighborhood was ours we walked in the dirt. From my house I could see the river, over lengths of tilled acre plots. We took the same path to the levee, almost nightly, climbing up the gravel slope as the river swallowed its last rays before the sun sank lazily below the rice fields. Walks with Dad were my refuge, my escape from the dreaded first born and my own personal time with the big man himself. I had all the questions, he had all the answers.
I am the second of three children, born to parents who live for Friday family game night. We have traveled together more than some families have sat at dinner together. I have walked with Dad in forty-three different countries and would list every occasion as my most cherished. The temple blotted hills of Laos and the narrow backstreets of Seville share the echo of my father’s voice, growing louder and louder as he retells the story of some person or figure who seems to be historically insignificant to everyone around except him. With every step comes a new lesson.
Apart from the knowledge I take away from walks with Dad, something even less concrete, less attainable stays with me – silence. Beyond the buzz of a waking street lamp and hidden within the rub of four dragging feet, my rare comfort lends a moment to its mindful listener. A walk absent of speech creates its own dialogue. His lazy saunter speaks to my wandering gaze with a reassuring constant, and I know why I took the walk. I value the clarity of my own thought, particularly when coupled with the presence of a man who undoubtedly welcomes the same opportunity. We walk in silence, but we are deafened by its wisdom.
It is a strange realization that silence does not always sound the same. A dimming October horizon once shared with us its grief for another day lost, but we inched toward it thankful for another day had. It was a familiar path, but not a familiar walk as never had black suits and mourning been criterion for our tradition: my Dad’s best friend had passed. The laughs were cries, and a tear drenched handkerchief was the only answer Dad could lend. There was nothing more that I wanted than to return even the smallest bit of wisdom. But on the return walk, he dried his eyes. After seventeen years of man-and-boy, my Dad told me I was not just his son, I was his best friend.
I can no longer see the river from our house, but I can trace our old path through a maze of two-dozen new homes. Our walks are tours of beauty that flower into lessons of age. I would trade nothing for the steps I have taken, I believe in walks with Dad.
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