They worry me, the seniors walking their dogs on the greenbelt.
Not the senior citizens walking senior dogs. THOSE dogs look at me and with a SLOW wag-wag of the tail they let me know that they’re going to continue to mosey along with their human and there’s not going to be, you know, any trouble.
Nope. Those aren’t the walking pairs that worry me.
It’s the senior citizens with dogs who are dragging their human long before they ever see me. And when THOSE DOGS look at me, the tail wags FAST-FAST, the pace picks up even more, and the eyes take on a mischievous glint as if to say, “Yeah, I love her. But I COULD put her down. You get that, right? I mean, I probably won’t…I don’t think…but I COULD.”
This seems to be a nonverbal signal to my large canine running companions who follow this code:
If you are a senior dog who ambles, my dogs will give you full command of the sidewalk. They will step all the way OFF the sidewalk to accommodate you, continuing to run in unison with each other and in perfect conformity with MY running pace and they will PASS YOU BY with nary a second glance. If, however, you are a dog who GIVES THE SIGNAL, if you are WOUND UP and DRAGGING YOUR OWNER then YippeeYahooTheresGonnaBeaHootentenanny and bygod they are IN. In a matter of a 2 seconds, they become maniacs and I can’t control my dogs any more than the senior can control hers.
So when I saw her this morning, a tiny waif of a senior, being dragged by her pleasantly plump but still plenty energetic dog – I immediately looked for someplace to pull my dogs off the greenbelt before there was trouble and one of us (maybe me, maybe her) went DOWN. I was near a greenbelt entrance, so I pulled my companions way, way off the greenbelt, so all dogs involved understood it was NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. Then I waited for the tiny woman and her dog to walk on by. I raised my hand in a wave.
She responded, “Thaaan….Yooo.”
It was slow and distorted, like a speech impediment. But looking at the gray head, I quickly remembered where I had heard that sound before.
I was…touched. So touched. I mean, she could have just waved. (Hell, she’s a senior, she could have just walked on by with an attitude of entitlement, and I wouldn’t have begrudged her a bit.) But she chose instead to labor through those words. She wasn’t going to let stroke remnants stop her from saying Thank You to me.
And it was something else too. It was freaking inspiring.
That little woman on the greenbelt, she reminds me of some other seniors I know, seniors who -- in spite of the discomfort – take a deep breath every day and Just. Keep. Going.
Like I said. Inspiring.
So here’s to all the DOG-WALKING, BRIDGE-PLAYING, CRUISE-TAKING, FLOWER-TENDING, YARD-MOWING, BOOK-READING, FACEBOOK-SAVY, SHOPPING-WITH-A-WALKER seniors in our lives:
May God heap blessings on your dear gray heads.
Because when aging shows up at OUR doors With its pain and its difficulties With its disappointments and its limitations WE ARE GOING TO KNOW WHAT TO DO.
We’re going to know what to do Because we watched YOU.