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December 01, 2007

Walking Towards the Fountain of Youth

Thinking of how difficult it would be for my father in these first days after my mother has been gone, waking up alone, going to bed alone, not having my mother around to serve as he had become accustomed, I asked him if he'd like to come into Vancouver and go for a walk around the park. His voice seemed shaky but I think the prospect seemed inviting. I told him to call me back when he decided whether he was up to it. He did.

I went to pick him up at the Burrard skytrain station and I was waiting and waiting. Geez, you'd think I was HIS parent. I sounded like an anxious mother on the phone as I gave him instructions. Be careful on the stairs at the skytrain stations. Hold onto the railings. Don't carry too much money on you. What are you wearing? It's really cold today. Are you wearing your winter coat? Don't forget the gloves. What kind of shoes do you have on? Burrard comes right after Granville. Get off after the Granville Station and I'll pick you up on the side of the station the way I used to with mom.

He FINALLY shows up. It took him SO long that I was having all these scenarios in my head. Maybe he's been accosted by some low lifes. Maybe the train has stopped on the tracks. Maybe he didn't hear me properly and he's actually waiting at Granville. Maybe he was here early and waited and I was here later than expected and he got back on the train. It went on and on.

Finally, I see his familiar cap, the one that makes him look like the Scotsman that he is, and he explains that he somehow got off at the Waterfront Station and had to turn around and come back one.

We got back to my apartment and we set off. I noticed that when you're walking around the park with an old person who appears to be related to you people treat you better. It's as if you get the same reaction when you're with a baby or with a really cute dog. They smile. They say hello more.

I'll spare you the details of our every step but suffice to say that when you're 10 months short of your 90th birthday and you can walk around the entire Stanley Park Seawall, minus the detour at the totem poles, then you're not doing too badly.

In fact, and this cracked me up, as we're approaching 2nd beach, he says to me, "Is this your normal pace?" implying that maybe he thought I'd slowed it down for him. "Well, ya," I say. "Why, is this too slow for you?"
"No, but I tend to walk just a shade faster," he says.

By the time we get past Third beach and the Canadian flag on the Sylvia Hotel is visible, he says to me, "I think we should try and keep up with her," he says, pointing to a woman doing a slow speedwalk just a bit in front of us. Now, this is the point where I can usually begin to feel the back of my thighs aching just a little but I'll be damned if I'm going to be outdone by a 90 year old. So, we move a little faster knowing that the faster we move the sooner we get lunch.

We pick up the pace and head into the Sylvia Hotel. I did notice that he could barely get up the stairs. I told him that next time, perhaps we'd just stick to my hour-long route. He agreed.

We sat down at the Sylvia at the window and Bruce came to serve us. That's the beauty of the Sylvia. Consistency!

I said "Dad, when was the last time you walked around the park?"

"Well, my parents would sometimes rent an apartment and we'd come here in the summer when I was a kid to be close to English Bay. I don't think I've done that since I was a kid," he said. "There used to be a pier coming right out from the beach over there he said pointing a little north and buildings on that side as well."

I think my father is adaptable. I think he has figured out something about the fountain of youth. It has something to do with lots of walking. And, forgetting about how old you are. I notice he has a habit of thinking people much younger than him are just around his own age. Apparently denial is also good for longevity!

It was a good day.

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