Walkin’ & Talkin’

Two cats sitting next to each other in front of a heart.

âš½ As some of you may know, I am an avid walker. I started running when I was 51, and twenty years later my right knee started giving me problems and I was reduced to being a walker.  I convinced myself that I should thank the Lord that I was still able to walk and not be so dejected.  It sorta felt like your family coming to you and saying, “You can no longer drive, you’re a threat to yourself and othersâ€. I’m confident that day comes to all of us if we live long enough. 

For me, 2000 steps equal one mile, and I average 50,000 steps each week, so I’m walking about 25 miles. Last week (5/3) I challenged the members in my Fitbit walking group (my 3 granddaughters, my wife, and a friend in Russia) to walk 100,000 steps the following week (50 miles).  I promised to pay anyone that did so $200 and an extra $100 to the one that had the most over that goal.  I calculated that I needed to walk 14,300 steps on each of those seven days to get to that magic number, and I wasn’t sure my cranky old bones were up to the task. 

Sure enough, by the end of the 2nd day I had a small blister on the side of my right foot and I became worried that my quest was going to come to an end.  I gave it some thought, looked closely at my walking shoes, and determined that I was probably tying my shoelaces too tight.  In a short walk I wouldn’t notice anything, but a much longer walk would be a different matter.  So, the next day I walked with my shoelaces much looser and to my delight the blister didn’t hurt.  Also, I noticed as the week progressed how much better I was feeling, my stride became fluid, and I could tell that my waist was shrinking.  Now, let me tell ya, that’s a good combination! 

The competition ended Sunday night at midnight and the battle was between a 79-year-old Great Grandpa (me) and his 27-year-old granddaughter (Chelsea).  I had 110,701 steps (55 miles), and she had 103,787 (52 miles).  Earlier in the week she was 10,000 steps in front, but I believe she gave it some thought and decided it was more important for me to win than for her to beat “old Grandpaâ€, whom she loves dearly.  I wonder if I could have been that magnanimous if I were in a competition with my grandfather when I was her age?  I have an idea for a new competition in the near future, but I have to let my old aching body heal before announcing it. 

I recently had a friend tell me they weren’t into walking as a means of exercising.  What I wanted to say, and failed to because I feared offending them, was that not only do you get the health benefits but if you’re walking with someone you get the benefit of good conversation.  My wife and I talk more on our walks than at any other time.  The only exception may be when we travel.  I have learned more about her than otherwise possible thru our thrice weekly one-hour walks.  Although retired, we both keep an active schedule during the day and by nightfall we are exhausted, setting in front of the TV eating dinner and, perhaps, snoozing at times like old folks often do 😊. 

This “Walking & Talking†thing applies to almost anyone.  I love walking with my granddaughters, including the greats, and talking as we stroll along.  If I were a police detective and I wanted to get information out of a suspect, the first thing I would say to him is, “let’s go for a walkâ€.  If I were a doctor, I would tell my patients, if capable, to walk for 30 minutes at least three times each week and preferably with someone.  I would want them to show me that they were willing to do something to promote their health.  I know there would be exceptions, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable.  True, we pay our doctors very well to look after our health, but I believe they can rightly expect us to help them get us to the place we want to be health wise.  I do have friends that expect their doctors to slow, or stop, their declining health, without lifting a finger to help in that quest. 

Yup, I know that having a healthy lifestyle is not a guarantee of a long and healthy life, but I strongly suspect not having one is indicative of a much shorter one with many health problems.  An old Spanish proverb goes, “A person too busy to take care of their health is like a mechanic that’s too busy to take care of his toolsâ€.   None of us want to be that person 😊.       

âš½ Back in March, I had an appointment with my new dentist (my old one retired)), and his task was to bring back my smile.  Well, COVID-19 made its grand entrance into our lives and the appointment was canceled.  Last week the Governor of our fair state (Virginia) let some business sectors reopen with restrictions.  Dental offices were part of that group, so his office called last week (5/6), rescheduled me, and a week later I’m setting in front of his office in our truck.  I called the office and his receptionist asked me 15 questions about my health and, after answering “No†to all of them, she invited me to come inside. When I arrived at the door she calmly asked, “Where is your face maskâ€?  I was confused, why would I wear a facemask to the dental office?  How are you gonna work on my mouth if I’m lying there with a facemask on? 

I had been told beforehand there was no waiting in the waiting room and that I would be ushered directly to “The Chairâ€.  I didn’t have a face mask, so she went inside and returned with one for me to use.  In a few minutes my dentist walked into the room I now occupied, and after the customary greeting, revealed a needle that looked to all the world like one you would use on a full-grown horse.  All of a sudden, he had my full attention.  I thought he was a dentist, not a veterinarian.  As I laid there with fear in my eyes, he casually sat on his stool, gave me a pat on the shoulder, and told me that I would only feel a slight sting. 

He was definitely wrong about the “slight sting†thing because it was still there when I went to bed that night.  The good news is that it worked.  I was in his chair for quite a while and I never felt any pain, so the tradeoff was worth it.  His job was to replace two caps and 1 filling, and he did an excellent job.

My experience with my dentist reminds me there are things in life that need to be done even though the experience may be less than desirable.  A few come to mind: going to the tax accountant, getting a yearly physical, taking the car to the shop for its yearly safety inspection, an annual visit to the optometrist, and of course, the twice-yearly dental visits. 

These are things we need to do as we navigate our way thru life, and deep inside we know that any of them can turn into a disaster.  I have taken my car to the shop for inspection and watched patiently as the mechanic ambled slowly in my direction and informed me that the necessary repairs to make it roadworthy would cost about a thousand bucks.  I have had my family doctor tell me that my blood platelets were too low and send me to hematologists.  I still remember the fear in my heart as I walked into his office.  Fortunately, the platelets have since increased but the concern is always there. 

We all know that our stroll through life will be filled with times of joy and distress.  The joy part is easily handled, it’s the part that causes distress that is worrisome.  And to me, my friend, this is the part we have to concentrate on the most.  How we handle stress plays a large role in how comfortable life is for us.  I have developed a plan that works for me and it requires that I ask myself this question, “In one year will this problem still be here?† That has worked quite well for me because not very many of my stressful situations lingered for that long.  Sigmund Freud said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautifulâ€.  Sorry, Sig, that doesn’t work for me 😊.