Miles to go
My dad was born on this day in 1919 in a farmhouse between Garden Grove and Highpoint, Iowa, the eighth of 11 children. He passed in 2009, a couple months after celebrating his 90th birthday. The road between those milestones was long, productive and purposeful. Which makes celebrating today just a tiny bit sad and a whole lot joyful.
Dad never let the fact that life didn’t give him an advantage prevent his meeting an objective. A true Aquarian, he would quietly think his way through a challenge, identify a solution and implement it in such a way that the answer seemed quite obvious…after the fact. His walking practice, developed after he and Mom moved north, offers the perfect example.
Their residence is part of a remarkable renovation effort that transformed Ft. Dodge’s historic Mercy hospital into cozy apartments. Every floor features a long, well-lit hallway. A constant information gatherer, Dad understood that walking a couple of miles every day was the perfect prescription for his congestive heart failure. So he and my mom, armed with a well-used rope brought from southern Iowa, measured the length of the hall so he could calculate the mileage. His doctor, I’m told, was pleased with Dad’s exercise plan but mightily impressed with his strategic thinking.
For the last years of his life, virtually every conversation with my dad included my asking/his telling me how far he had walked that morning. Most days, it was two miles. One day we calculated he’d “walked” his way down to Promise City and back, and then some. On his 89th birthday, he smiled when he told me he’d be glad to reach 90, because he’d promised himself he could cut back to just one mile a day.
I’ve always loved the saying that an angel talks to the one who walks. And while I’m not sure walking was ever the passion for Dad that it is for me, I do know he appreciated its gift for clearing heads as well as strengthening hearts. Growing old is hard work. So is saying goodbye. He knew he soon physically would be leaving the family that he loved so much, and he wanted to be certain he’d done what he could so we would continue to thrive. I believe those thousands of steps brought him peace.
This afternoon, I’ll taste the bittersweet moments of leaving my little now-Texan family for Colorado.
So this morning, I believe I’ll be going for a walk. 😉
Happy birthday, Dad.
“But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.”
– Robert Frost