You know when old people get together, how the conversation soon wanders into physical maladies? It’s made for comedian stuff, right? Well, this is not that.
The morning after the big wind storm — the first one — I was walking Rabia toward the lake with a host of old people complaining about their aches and pains, all of them sitting around in my head as we ambled into the tunnel. Before I get into this too far, let me just say I totally understand Defense Secretary Austin’s reticence to air his health problems. I hate using my own issues as an illustration for sermons or columns but sometimes, to get to something good, it is the required path.
As mentioned previously, I had a knee replaced last summer. After about four months the doctor and PT patted me on the back, sent me on my way, and surely smiled knowing I had one more waiting for them. But what the old people in my head were griping about that morning was my back. In the process of fixing the knee an old issue with my back returned. While I love taking Rabia to the lake and spending some contemplative time there each morning, walking is not pleasant these days. The old people were complaining loudly about this situation.
Rabia was especially efficient that morning doing her business so we headed to the bench. It was wet of course, a night of rain always does that, you know. So I took off my gloves and put them on the bench to sit on. (Works great, by the way). Rabia joined me but she was distracted by the slightly bent silhouette of a human checking out the book box down at the playground. It was a hair past sunrise but a blanket of dark gray smothered the earth without a hint of sun piercing it. It was impossible to make out who it was down there. Meanwhile, the old people and I sat in my head feeling sorry for me.
Then the figure turned toward us and began running. More like jogging, methodically and slowly, not the sleek and graceful form of Mo Farah or Kenenisa Bekele. It turned out to be Alan, a “lakesider” I have mentioned previously. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year. Alan runs, or jogs, for miles. He even runs for twelve hours of a twenty-four-hour running event, and other such mind-boggling distances. He told me it was his birthday. I asked, and he said with a big smile, “Seventy-six!” He regaled me with some serious medical events endured since last we met — that’s what old people do, remember — but it was with a smile and seemingly trivial compared to the crazy long-distance runs he also described.
I noticed in the course of our conversation how beautiful the lake appeared. Still gray and mostly dark, yes, but the water was so calm that the clouds reflecting on it looked beautiful. I began to see color too, not just gray. Tungsten, lupin, glycerine, languid blue, deep navy — an entire palette appeared before my eyes that was there all along. By the time Alan went jogging on his way, the old people weren’t in my head any more. Just me, feeling pretty good about how strong my knee felt as Rabia and I ambled home.