You don't really notice the able-bodied people at the park. They walk quickly or they jog; they play baseball or kick soccer balls or careen down the slide.
Like summer heat and wayward tennis balls, they're just kind of a given. A nice one yes; seeing others outside conjures up a bit of camaraderie, of unification, a we're-all-in-this-together feeling.
It's the other people, those for whom moving is a bit of a struggle, that you find yourself noticing, and you find yourself rooting for. I crossed paths with two this morning.
The first was a man I first noticed almost a year ago. Though he still uses metal polio-type crutches, he's now alone. He no longer relies on his wife by his side, nor on his teen-age son or daughter behind him, each ready to stop his fall if he stumbles, or if a rubber-tip crutch gets caught on the sidewalk.
When I saw him today, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved button-down shirt, I said hello, then left the park for my run. By the time I returned 20 minutes later, he'd progressed almost two-thirds of the way around, one boldly cautious step at a time.
A block closer to home, I saw another man making his way with a walker, his back so bent he had to raise his head to smile at me and say hello. But he did smile, and he did say hello, and he did keep going.
Yes, it is skin-searing hot today. Yes, I started my run too late, when the coveted early-morning shade was barely mottled shadows on the sidewalk. Yes, I ran a mile less than what I had planned.
But these men reminded me of what I forget all too often: I have two legs that work, and a stalwart heart that keeps a steady beat. I have a cap to ward the sun from my face, and sunscreen to keep my bare shoulders from burning. I have cold water in a bottle, and a towel to wipe the sweat from my face. I have energy to go, and (mostly) good sense to stop.
As I walked that last block, I glanced at the sidewalk and saw it dotted with green pecans. Tiny and inedible, maybe on another day I wouldn't have given them much thought. But today I saw them as something affirming: Hopeful precursors of autumn.
An Older Dad, Down for the Count
1 day ago