In the nearly 25 years that I’ve walked the streets and trails in my neighborhood, I’ve watched partnerships changing. People begin to walk without a life companion. An old dog gets left at home. A friend steadies a neighbor whose gait has become unsure.
Change happens, and we are left to cope. That’s the way it is.
A Steady Partnership
Two walkers who I often see haven’t changed their routine for many decades. I first encountered these men in 1994 when I moved into my current neighborhood. The older man often wears a “Korean War Veteran” hat with pride. That war ended in 1953, so he fought over 65 years ago.
Occasionally, I exchange a few words with the father while the son, who only vocalizes in guttural sounds, sways back and forth impatiently. It seems that he may have severe retardation and can only manage a step with aid from his father. If there is construction in the neighborhood, the dad makes a reroute so that the son can watch men and machines move the earth. Then the unsteady rocking seems to be an outward expression of contentment.
A Notice of Change?
One day I observed that a county planning permit notice was nailed to a telephone pole at the corner of the father’s property, and I wondered if they would be moving to make way for a new subdivision.
I spoke with the Dad, and he told me, “My wife would never be willing to move. Besides, he (the son) knows how to get everywhere he wants in the house by scooting his feet to move his wheelchair.” Then he smiled and continued, “We all have our routines.”
I’m sure that I’m not the only neighbor who has worried about the certainty of change for either the father or the son. But then I realized, we all have to negotiate a turn in supportive partnerships. Most of us won’t pay to clone a four-legged companion or choose to be the first partner who goes first. Regardless of our current circumstances, there is an inevitable change in what sustains us and we get to figure out how to adapt, maladapt, or fold.
It will be no different for the father and his son. The survivor will manage with help from supports put in place. In the meantime, they have savored a daily ritual for decades.
Cheers to them!