by James Bates
Out for a winter's walk I came upon some footprints in the snow. Whose were they, I wondered? I paused for a moment, thinking, but came up with no answer, so I impulsively decided to follow them. As I walked, I began remembering how much I enjoyed this, walking outside like I was, not up and down those long hallways in the mall like I've been doing lately. You see, I've been having a little trouble remembering where I am over the past year so my wife has taken to driving me to Ridgedale where she and I walk with an oldsters group. It's been okay, and I like walking with Kath, but it's nothing to write home about. However, let me tell you, back in the day, back when my memory was clear, I used to do it a lot, this walking outside. I liked it then and I was liking it now, even though I didn't know where I was.
Having the fresh invigorating air with the cold bite of winter on my cheeks not only felt wonderful, it made me feel young again. Out of the blue old time memories came flooding back: My younger brother Tim and I in our youth, walking in the winter woods outside of town with our field guides in out backpacks, teaching ourselves how to identify birds; Young Kath and I before we were married, shuffling along a snowy, moonlit trail in a wooded park in January, talking quietly, planning our future and stealing warm kisses behind a convenient oak tree; My daughter Janet and I strolling along a snowy river path near the college she attended as she told me of her dreams for her future; My grandson...
Suddenly I heard Zak's voice calling, shaking me out of my reverie, "Grandpa, Grandpa, you need to come inside. Grandma Kath says it's time for dinner and great uncle Tim's starving." I looked over and saw him grinning. We all knew how much my brother liked to eat.
"I'm coming," I said, pulling my mind back to the present and making my way through the snow to the back door of the home Kath and I have lived in for over fifty years. So that's where I was. Our backyard was a tiny open area, and the edges of the property were thick with evergreen trees; in a way it was kind of like being in a wooded clearing in northern Minnesota. I'd have to try to remember that.
"What were you doing out there, Grandpa?" Zak asked as I came up to him, stomping snow from my boots. He was eleven and in middle school, and this winter he was busy with hockey, his friends and class work, in that order. I didn't see him as much as I used to, or liked to, for that matter.
"Reminiscing," I told him. He didn't need to know I'd had absolutely no idea where I'd just been except lost in fond memories, reliving the past. I recovered valiantly and said, "Thinking about walks we used to take."
"Like when you took me out that one winter night and showed me the constellations? I remember we saw Cassiopeia and Orion."
"Yeah, exactly," I said, mentally shifting gears back to the present (rather smoothly, I thought.) "Back when you were young and just a kid, like four or five." I reached out to jokingly muss up his hair as he ducked away, laughing.
I stepped into the back entryway, closed the door against the cold and began taking off my winter jacket, scarf, boots and hat. I used to babysit him one day a week before he started grade school. Those were good times back then, special times, especially now that he was getting older and busy with other activities. I glanced up and saw Zak looking past me to the backyard, quietly thinking. The house was filled with the aromatic scent of cinnamon, baked sweet potatoes and fresh apple pie. My mouth involuntarily started watering. I smiled to myself, thinking of my brother. No wonder he was starving.
Zak interrupted my thoughts, "Hey, Grandpa, how about after we eat, you and I go outside and go for a walk? It's been a while."
I was shocked almost to the point of speechlessness. It was the last thing I expected to hear from my busy grandson. I almost put on my jacket right then and there, grabbed him by the arm and went back outside. Instead, I reached for him and enveloped him in a big bear hug as he good-naturedly squirmed to get away. "That'd be wonderful, Zak, just perfect." Our meal couldn't be over soon enough, as far as I was concerned.
Afterwards, as Zak and I got ready to go outside, snow flurries started falling ever so lightly. The sun was setting, painting the western horizon dusty mauve, and the soft glow of street lamps were illuminating the drifting snowflakes like floating specs of glitter. It was so pretty that we were spontaneously joined by my daughter Janet (Zak's mom) along with Kath. Even my brother Tim dragged himself out of his easy chair and made it outside. I couldn't recall the last time all of us had gone for a nice family stroll together along a snow covered street. It was way better than being at the mall. In fact, I wouldn't mind if we made a habit of it, all of us making time to get together and go walking. Winter, summer, spring or fall, it wouldn't matter. I'd like that a lot.
But today was special, having us all together. And you know what? The whole time we were walking, I remembered where we were from beginning to end. In fact, I still do. It was unforgettable.
About the author
Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota and tries to go for a long walk everyday. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed and Paragraph Planet. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.