Driving and Biking in the Big City

Archive for October 2014

She’s gone now

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Tucker in 2014

My good boy, Tucker, makes friends on the gully.

She’s gone now, of course. My old friend’s old dog. I’ve known it for a while but was unwilling to write about it or intentionally race out to the gully when I saw him walking his regular path. I didn’t choose to engage him until fate brought us back together anyway. My gully walks are not about plans but are about providence. Call it kismet, destiny, lady luck. Reality. You get what you get when you get it. I don’t often leave for a walk or a bike ride intentionally to see a bird, a deer or a neighbor. I leave when I leave. These days, I simply try to get home in time to beat the sunset.

Even before today, I’ve seen him walking his two surviving dogs, one named Virgil and the other’s name still unknown. I watch them through the slats in my fence while I sit on my porch after work and admire the birds and the sunset. First, I watched for him with hope after our last talk in June. His two healthy dogs lead the parade – one on a leash and the other running free. Then, this tall, lanky, methodical man. I’d hold my breath for seconds, then minutes until, finally, the sweet Cookie would trail several feet later. A blond lab with silvering hair who took longer and longer to keep up every time I saw them on their routine walks.

Today, the inevitable couldn’t be avoided. My lone hound Tucker and I were coming off the gully bridge when he came my way from the park. I stopped in the path and put down the kickstand on my bike — a sure sign that I wanted to talk a minute.

“I see you’ve lost your old girl,” I said when we came face to face at dusk.

“I have,” he answered. “A couple of months ago. She made it to 16.”

“A good long life,” I said, my standard response. Three extra years sounded sweet to me, having lost my Patsy girl at only 13 when she died a few months back. My friend remembers Patsy, so we compared girl dog stories. We both agreed they are unique and fun and miss them desperately.

I suspect he’s 80 or so. Plenty old and slow moving. Tonight, he didn’t have on his straw bowler. Instead, he wore a bike helmet – a sure sign of recent brain surgery or a head injury. He fidgeted with it while we talk, and I decided not to ask. Finally, he volunteered, “I like to wear more protection when it gets dark like this. I’m more likely to fall in the dark. If I fall, I need to protect my head.” Of course, he does, I think. And I want to wrap him in a flak jacket and help him put on boots with thick socks. And gloves. Doesn’t he need gloves, too?

Can’t we protect him from the misadventures an old man might encounter on a walk of the gully? Protect him from nature as it comes his way. Protect him from life. Protect him from death. Keep him as my gully friend forever.

I take routine spills on my routine adventures. Just this week I almost steered my bike all the way down the 20-foot incline when I got distracted by Tucker. One more foot over to my left, and I’d have been swimming in the murk or worse.  I tend to lean into trouble when I see it coming. It’s like I determine it’s happening while it’s still coming, and I lean in, bracing myself for the worst-case scenario before it becomes inevitable. Slo-mo, and I’m in big trouble. I righted myself in time, this time. Made my heart race as my mind continued to visualize the worst.

My friend is quite decrepit and frail. His walk is slowed and measured. I’m sure I’m a sweet young thing in his eyes. They certainly light up and dance when we stop to talk. My friends and kids worry about me on the gully and I’m decades younger. The least I can do is worry about him, watch for his shadow to fall on my fence. Wait until he passes with now two dogs. And I can put down my kickstand, and we can talk a minute. It’s nice to remember our old girls together.

Here’s the original blog from June.









Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

October 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm