As often as I can, I take W out for walks. Walking with him is something special for me and something that I started with him at a very young age. The weather is starting to warm up and this allows for pleasant times for walking after work together – I believe W was only a couple weeks old on our first walk. M has the exact date down for sure in her calendar. The warm climate here in VA allowed me to take him out well into November of his first year, and then there was a brief pause during the cooler winter months. I would carry him in one of those European front carriers, first with him facing my chest, snuggled up keeping warm, and then, as he grew older, facing away from me – .
W is old enough to walk now. Most of our walks last well over 30 minutes but we manage only to cover a few blocks. He’s into picking up and throwing rocks and sticks. He’ll walk about 10 feet, find a rock or stick, and attempt to carry it along with the others he has already gathered drop a couple rocks in the process of picked up a new rock, leave them, find others carry them for a while and this is repeated numerous times through the entire walk.
I stay very close to W as he walks- too much crap for him to pick up besides the rocks and sticks. Sometimes, I’ll test him to see how far he will walk on his own away from me before feeling uncomfortable and running back–.
Last week, we were finishing up a walk and W had a large stone in each hand. The weather was cool, and the sun was down behind the buildings and it was moving from cool to cold. I could see that his hands were red due to the temperature and the intense grip he had on the rocks.
I knew that it would eventually happen, so when it did, perhaps I wasn’t as surprised as even I thought I should be.
His foot caught on a raised portion of the sidewalk and he fell forward. He only had about 14 or 15 inches to fall, but instinctually, his hands went down in front of him to brace for impact. Unfortunately, he didn’t release his grip on the rocks, and his knuckles went right into the concrete sidewalk. The tight red skin didn’t fare well against the concrete.
I lifted him as his face turned scarlet and the silent cry sequence began.
A quick once over of his face assured me that he hadn’t kissed-the-crete, but as I brushed him off, blood from his knuckles appeared in the palms of my hand.
It was the first time he bled on me.
I was too concerned with comforting him and holding him close to think about the few specks of blood on my hand. That blood didn’t mean as much then as it does as I write this.
It would have been around 1979.
Spring. There was still a morning chill.
I could hear his steps in the hallway, the old hardwood floors creaking. His figure would appear in the door and a smile would come to his face as he saw that I was awake – the sun already shining through my window.
I would spring out of bed as fast as my 7 year old body could move. Dress as fast as I could and run as fast as my legs could carry me down the stairs to find him waiting for me.
We’d set out on our Saturday morning walk.
Just the two of us. No mom, no sister. Just a dad and son.
We’d talk. About what, I can’t remember.
I was so happy walking next to him, holding his hand, leaning over the seawall to pick up floating tennis balls from the black oily cold river water.
Today, I know that he knew that the walks were going to end.
In a few weeks, there would be no more Saturday walks.
No more early morning creaking floors.
No more morning chills.
No more hand to hold.
Just me awakened by the sunlight, looking at my door into an empty hall.
I never want my son to look into that empty hall.
And yes dad, I will always hold this pain against you.