Walking with Dad

I think of my father when I walk. Probably it is because he loved to be outdoors, and he taught me early on to notice my surroundings. A few days ago, weather conditions combined to create a remarkable Texas sky. The way the thick, white clouds rode the wind across the blue, blue sky, made me wish I could be a red-tailed hawk so I could fly with them. Dad seemed closer that day.

My route is always the same. Since my feet have memorized where they need to go, my mind is freed to notice what’s around me, to keep up with my neighborhood. One day, I set out just as a downpour had moved east. When I reached a spot between two culverts, the noise of water rushing from the street into the underground pipes stopped me in my tracks. I closed my eyes. It felt like I was in the midst of a waterfall.

I know all the dogs on my route. Dad once told me that a dog’s bark is its greeting, and that it’s only polite to return the hello. So I speak to all my doggy friends. “Hi, sweetie! What a good dog,” I say. And remarkably, the dogs stop barking and just watch me as I pass by.

When it is very cold, I march and sing or whistle a little tune to help me keep my pace, and I think of Dad. I learned to march in his band, and I can still whistle every note of the piccolo part to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Dad told me that seeing someone giving to someone else thrilled him so much he often had tears. He felt the same about unexpected gifts. For years, he wore a flannel shirt that someone had donated to the victims of Hurricane Carla, proud that a stranger could care that much.

When I walk and remember Dad’s wisdom, I know he still lives.

“There is no judgment when we die.

Judgment belongs to Earth-thinking, discarded when the body is shed.

Beyond the veil of Death is understanding, and comfort, and release.

Empty of appraisal or measurement, the Infinite encircles the beloved, and calls him home.”

from Foolish Wisdom