June 15, 2014

Walking With Dad

Its funny how certain events or activities in our lives, no matter how simple and ordinary they might seem at the time, crystallize into magical moments that stick with you and leave you with peace and joy through your whole life. For me, one such activity was with my dad in the mid-1960’s.

On more than one occasion, my dad would take me (just me) for a walk after dinner from our home on Montana Ave. in South Milwaukee to Grant Park. Judging by the darkness, my mind estimated it had to be 10:00 or midnight or something like that but I now realize it was more likely to be about 6:00 or 7:00 on those fall evenings when the sun disappeared early. Stepping out at night like that with my dad was the most exhilarating, mysterious and dangerous thing I had ever experienced in all my six years. With the first crunch of the leaves as we closed the door behind us, a whole new world opened up. Some times we'd depart from the front and walk past George’s Grocery Store or other times we'd take the spookier route through the alley. We’d walk (well, dad walked and I’d run or skip to keep up with him) the few blocks to the entrance of the park. On turning the corner, we stepped into an even more mysterious world and I’d hold dad’s hand tighter. We’d slow down, but not stop, to look at the lagoon then picked up the pace again to climb the huge hill ahead of us. (At some point, someone must’ve shaved the hill down, because it’s not nearly as steep now as I remember it to be then.) Once up the hill, we turned around and came home the same way…back into the warmth and light…a perfect circle that left me with rosy cheeks, a pounding heart and the happiest feeling.

In high school, GrantPark became a place for my friends and me to hang out. Those years were a time in my life when I was…let’s just say it…when I was often a real pain in the a** to my parents and my dad and I clashed on those occasions. As I’d drive past the lagoon and up the hill in the car with my friends, I’d think of dad and our walks to the park a decade earlier...and I'd miss him terribly.

Some time in the mid1990’s, dad and I and other members of our family joined in a Family Run/Walk event near White Lake Beach Resort. We all started out together but after a while, I was getting ahead of dad. Now, I really believe that he just let me get ahead of him but I remember thinking of our nighttime walks in South Milwaukee three decades before and how I had all I could do to keep up with him then.

Even now, nearly fifty years later, dad is with me on all my walks. With the sound of the door latching behind me, dad’s just ahead. And if it’s a fall night, I’m six years old, holding dad’s hand…and all is right with the world.

Thanks Dad...I love you.
Happy Father's Day